The Roundhouse started rocking at the tip, continued through the game and ended with a standing ovation for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's basketball team as Ronrico White dribbled out the final seconds of the Mocs' 77-67 Southern Conference win over UNC Greensboro.
The official attendance for the game Saturday night in McKenzie Arena was 6,648.
Pulling away in the final five minutes, the Mocs extended their winning streak to 10 games and remained atop the conference standings at 8-0.
"Our guys believe they're going to win," UTC coach Will Wade said. "They put in the work."
Sophomore Casey Jones led UTC with 22 points and a career-high five steals. Senior forward Zaccheus Mason added 15 points despite foul trouble in the first half. Martynas Bareika scored 12 points and White added 11.
Tevon Saddler led UNCG (10-12, 3-4) with 24 points and seven rebounds. Kayel Locke added 14 points and Kyle Cain scored 11.
But UTC junior forward Lance Stokes earned the player-of-the-game honor from Wade after playing extended minutes with Mason out, scoring seven points and grabbing eight rebounds.
"Lance made great finishes; he went hard to the glass; he did a great job defensively on Locke and Cain," Wade said. "He was the key ingredient for our switches. He was tremendous, and that's the best game he's played."
Stokes had played more than his 29 minutes just once since UTC returned from Christmas break. UTC (14-8) needed him Saturday.
"I was relentless and attacking," he said. "I wanted to match their toughness and their aggressiveness. Whether I got [the rebound] or not, I was going to the glass. I was going to clear out."
His performance came in front of the largest crowd since Stephen Curry led Davidson into McKenzie Arena on Jan. 28, 2009. The 6,648, including the students who packed the end-zone section, made for the fifth largest crowd at UTC since the 2000-01 season.
"The crowd gave us a huge boost," said Wade, who thanked everybody who attended. "I'm really appreciative of the fans, and the city and the student turnout."
Bareika, who hit a clutch 3-pointer with 5:30 to go on a play called for him, held up eight fingers after the game signifying how many SoCon games his team has won.
Mason hit a 3 for a seven-point lead with 3:28 to go on a play Wade called that includes a decoy.
"Their operations guy [J.B. Tanner] is one of my closest friends, and he was a GA at VCU and he knows me like the back of his hand," Wade said. "[Mason's play] was a counter to a play they knew."
Such knowledge led to UNCG slowing the Mocs at times, especially coming out of halftime when the tide turned toward the Spartans even though UTC led 39-28 at halftime.
UTC built that lead by stopping UNCG on eight straight possessions, spanning nearly five minutes and including four turnovers. A miss by Drew Parker at the halftime buzzer left the margin in double digits.
"I thought we played pretty well in the first half," Wade said. "Early in the second half, they out-toughed us."
UNCG opened the final half with a 12-2 run that tied the game at 40. Neither team went ahead by more than five points, and they were tied at 56 with 6:16 to go.
Then UTC scored at least a free throw on 12 of 14 possessions to end the game, including the 3s by Bareika and Mason.
"They really made plays and we didn't," UNCG coach Wes Miller said. "We got quick with our shot selection. You saw a couple of turnovers and a couple of quick shots that allowed them to pull away."
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 ...
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