A few folks left McKenzie Arena during the media timeout with less than eight minutes to play Thursday night.
They missed the best part of the game — and the largest University of Tennessee at Chattanooga second-half comeback in the John Shulman era.
The Mocs rallied from a 19-point deficit to beat Appalachian State 91-88 in overtime before an announced crowd of 2,787.
"The people who left the arena, you made a really poor choice," said Shulman, who is 140-137 in his ninth year. "Don't give up on our basketball team -- please."
Nathan Healy's two free throws with 6:36 to play gave the visiting Mountaineers a 64-45 advantage in the Southern Conference game.
The Mocs had dug themselves into the hole with mistake after mistake, including blowing a 4-on-1 fastbreak. They dug themselves out of it with various pressure defenses leading to stops, by scoring at least two points on each of their final 13 possessions and getting five offensive rebounds while holding ASU to zero defensive rebounds in the final five minutes of regulation.
Zaccheus Mason finished with 23 point and 11 rebounds. Dontay Hampton set a career high with 22 points and hit the tying 3-pointer with 12 seconds left. Ronrico White scored 17 points and Drazen Zlovaric added 10 for UTC, which had come back from a 10-point hole at The Citadel on Saturday.
"I thought we thoroughly dominated this game for 34 minutes," ASU coach Jason Capel said. "They did nothing different. Up 19 with six and a half to go, it's about executing, meeting passes and having a killer instinct to put them away.
"If we do those things, then we're not feeling the way we feel."
He was not happy leaving McKenzie Arena for the second straight year. ASU lost to UTC last year in McKenzie Arena when Hampton sank a floater with 0.8 second left.
"It's a fun little rivalry," said Hampton, who hurt his right hand in overtime and iced it after the game. "Even football [guys] said they like the rivalry."
ASU guard Tab Hamilton ushered the Mountaineers (7-9, 3-2) to a 38-30 halftime lead by scoring 14 points before two dance teams took the floor. He finished with 21 points, and Healy had a double-double with 22 points and 10 rebounds.
The Mountaineers inched out to a double-digit lead, and Healy's two free throws seemed to provide enough cushion with 6:36 to play.
"We were just in a funk," said UTC's White, who made nine of 10 free throws. "We couldn't get that one play to get everybody going."
No single play stood out in the spark. UTC shot 11-of-17 from the floor, 3-of-7 from the arc and 8-of-8 on free throws in the final five minutes. The collection of plays turned the Mocs into flames.
Mason pulled UTC within 77-73 on a 3-pointer from the right wing on a play Shulman designed in the huddle. ASU's Mike Neal missed a layup after his team drained the shot clock. Mason scored again to get UTC within 77-75. Then Jay Canty missed one of two free throws, giving UTC a chance to tie.
Hampton, who missed the first 15 games recovering from knee surgery, delivered like a senior should. He buried a 25-footer from the left wing with 12 ticks to tock to knot the game at 78.
Neal missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer, and those remaining until the end celebrated.
"I thought we were dead many times," Shulman said. "I thought the first 32 minutes were ridiculous how bad we were, and the last eight, it's ridiculous how good we were."
Hampton banked in a 3-pointer from the right wing in overtime -- an omen that the Mocs were not going to be denied for the effort. White provided UTC with a three-point cushion with 6.6 seconds left.
Then Healy missed from the top of the key as the buzzer sounded. He chomped down on his jersey and threw his fists down in disgust while the Mocs mobbed each other.
"I appreciate all the people that did stay," Shulman said. "We did have a home-court advantage at the end of the game, and it felt good to have one."
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...