The celebration seemed a little subdued compared to those for the previous four University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's basketball victories.
But winning five is still mighty fine.
A blistering first half had the Mocs in control before they held off Samford 90-81 on Thursday night in a Southern Conference game at McKenzie Arena.
"This game, we had some mental lapses down the stretch where we didn't get a defensive assignment right," said Ronrico White, who set a career high with 28 points. "We knew we didn't close out the game like we should have."
A crowd of 3,097 began to rise with 5.7 seconds left and then celebrate the two-hour effort from their Mocs, who hadn't won five straight since the 2009-10 season.
"We never stop fighting," said sophomore Casey Jones, who scored 14 points including 10 of UTC's first 17. "Coach [Will Wade] said we have many different ways to win games because we fight to the end. In each game, it was close until the end. That's what got us all five of these wins. We won't give up."
White's game-high total included four 3-pointers and a 12-for-12 night from the free-throw line for the Mocs (9-8, 3-0).
Zaccheus Mason set a Division I era record with his sixth straight double-double by scoring 16 points (11-of-14 on free throws) and grabbing 10 rebounds. Jones scored in double figures for the fourth straight game, and Gee McGhee added 11 points and nine rebounds.
"I thought it was a tale of two halves," Wade said. "In the first half, we got the style of play going how we wanted. In the second half we weren't as aggressive. We held on for dear life.
"We were able to find another way to win."
The Bulldogs (6-12, 0-3) lost track of Jones in transition for a dunk, and coach Bennie Seltzer called for time 51 seconds into the game. Still, UTC sprinted to a 20-10 lead with Jones matching the Bulldogs point for point including a stylish finish to an alley-oop.
"We have three keys," Seltzer said. "The reason for the quick timeout was [UTC] got a layup and I had to reiterate one of those keys."
The Mocs continued rolling -- especially offensively -- until halftime. With three minutes to go before the break, Martynas Bareika buried a 3-pointer. On the next possession, he trailed the play, caught a pass back from McGhee for another 3 and a 45-27 lead. Seltzer called for time and reiterated again, albeit much more emphatically.
The Mocs led 48-33 at halftime.
"It's tough when you're on the road and you spot a team as good as Chattanooga 10 points," Seltzer said. "We're not at a point where we can spot a team 10 points in the first eight minutes."
UTC led by at least 10 points for the first 12 minutes of the second half. Connor Miller hit a 3 to get Samford within nine, but the Mocs were soon ahead 13 with five minutes to play.
Samford pulled within five. But only 15.6 seconds remained and White was in rhythm at the free-throw line, where he and McGhee closed out the game with nine straight from the stripe.
Tim Williams, Tyler Hood and Isaiah Williams each scored 15 points to lead Samford. Former Tyner star Michael Bradley grabbed four rebounds in his 13 minutes.
It wasn't enough for the Bulldogs to overcome UTC's strong start and subsequent locker-room celebration.
"It was less emotional," White said. "We were more focused on what we need to get done in practice to get ready for Saturday's game."
Wofford is the visitor for that 7 p.m. contest.
Contact David Uchiyama at email@example.com or 423-757-6484. Follow him at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.
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 ...
related articles »
The Mocs made the delay worth the wait.
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — A simple swat gave the Mocs a second shot — maybe one they didn't deserve.
Rico White's mother texted University of Tennessee at Chattanooga basketball coach Will Wade a couple of days ago, discussing her ...
The Mocs finally won out West.