The Mocs had a different sort of comeback Saturday night.
They had a personal comeback instead of a team victory.
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga senior Dontay Hampton played with a broken right hand but could not propel the Mocs back from a 16-point deficit in a 90-81 Southern Conference basketball loss to Western Carolina.
"I have to adjust my game because of my hand, and for the most part I played like I have a normal hand," said Hampton, who wore a brace and had the hand bandaged with two fingers taped together. "I could have made better decisions."
Coach John Shulman said Hampton, a senior from Arts & Sciences, took the blame for the loss. He didn't need to do that.
UTC allowed an opponent to reach the 90-point mark for the first time this season. And WCU scored more than 80 points against a Division I team for the second time this season.
"I'm more concerned with giving up 90 points," Mocs coach John Shulman said. "Eighty-one is enough to win in the league and at home. I don't know why we weren't hungry. We were playing for first place at home."
Instead, WCU has a share of the Southern Conference North Division lead.
Trey Sumler led the Catamounts with 25 points and hit all 10 of his free throws. Tom Tankelewicz set a career high with seven 3-pointers for 21 points. Brandon Boggs scored 19 points and Tawaski King added 18. The Cats shot 53.4 percent from the floor and 54.4 percent from the 3-point line.
"I think the way we shot the ball put us in a good position," WCU coach Larry Hunter said. "I thought we established [King] in the low post, so we had good inside-out presence."
The Mocs (8-1, 3-3) were led by 21 points from Zaccheus Mason and 19 from freshman guard Gee McGhee.
Hampton had nine points, six rebounds and five assists. He shot 2-of-8 from the floor, including two air balls, with his broken shooting hand.
"We were talking surgery yesterday afternoon," Shulman said. "He couldn't bounce a ball. Then to go out there and play how he played and battle through it -- that's what you want from your captain."
The Mocs were down by 16 points early in the second half. They had rallied from a 19-point hole with 6:36 to go on Thursday in a 91-88 overtime win over Appalachian State.
UTC threatened WCU, but the Catamounts (8-11, 5-2) maintained their poise and did not have a turnover in the final five minutes.
"You can't just play the last seven minutes of the game," UTC coach John Shulman said. "They made winning plays and we didn't make winning plays."
Hampton checked in at the first media timeout. He was careful to fist-bump teammates with his healthy left hand when he exited. In between, he air-balled a 3-pointer from the right wing and sank two free throws in the first half.
"I can't imagine doing that," Mason said. "It shows how tough he is. I'm glad we have him."
The Cats never trailed in the first half after they broke a 6-all tie. They led by as much as 27-17 with 10:57 to go in the first half. They shot 54.5 percent from the floor, including 8-of-13 from the 3-point line in the half.
Martynas Bareika pulled UTC even at 36 when he hit a 3-pointer from in front of the WCU bench. But the Cats closed the half on a 12-3 run for a 48-39 lead when a jump-rope team took to the floor.
"We keep getting off to these bad starts and have to keep playing catch-up," Hampton said. "We couldn't make the miracle comeback like Thursday."
WCU opened the second half with a 14-7 run featuring a dunk by Boggs that forced Shulman to call for time with his team down 62-46.
Hampton swished a deep 3-pointer from the right wing to get UTC within 82-78 with 1:19 to go. UTC could not get any closer.
"I'm as disappointed as I've been this year," Shulman said. "Western outplayed us. We missed enough layups to win by 14."
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 ...
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