The Mocs finally won out West.
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's basketball team ended its four-game trip to Nevada and California with an 87-76 win over IUPUI on Friday in the Las Vegas Invitational.
UTC led by 15 points early in the second half only to have the Jaguars pull within two before the Mocs raced back out to a 12-point lead with five minutes to play.
"We've been making progress incrementally," coach Will Wade said on the postgame radio show. "As a coach, you see the progress. For the players it's a bottom-line deal. It was real good for our guys to get a win and see that what we're doing is paying off."
Senior Zaccheus Mason tied a career high with 27 points and had nine rebounds. Sophomore wings Casey Jones and Gee McGhee each scored 14 points. Junior forward Lance Stokes tied a career high with 13 points, and freshman point guard Greg Pryor scored 13 as well.
Wade, the Mocs' first-year coach, earned his first victory over a Division I team in his sixth attempt, including losses at Nevada and UCLA last weekend and Thursday against Morehead State in Vegas. After the game, the Mocs were scheduled to eat at Hard Rock Cafe and then take a red-eye flight to the Atlanta airport for a bus ride home, ending a nine-day trip.
"It's a different atmosphere in the locker room with the guys after you get a win," Mason said on the radio. "It's a breath of fresh air and allows us to enjoy the rest of this trip."
The Jaguars (1-7) were led by 25 points from Ja'Rob McCallum, 15 from Ian Chiles and 13 from Khufu Najee.
"I was proud of our guys to get off to a good jump," Wade said. "Our guys stood in there, and we were eventually able to deliver the knockout punch."
The Mocs took a 13-4 lead and forced IUPUI to call time out twice in the first five minutes. The Jags tied the game at 14, but UTC responded by building a 35-20 lead capped by a Jones dunk.
McGhee hit a jump shot at the halftime buzzer, giving UTC a 45-33 lead at the break.
The Mocs had their best half of the season by shooting 15-of-28 from the floor and 3-of-7 from the 3-point line while out-rebounding the Jags 21-12. The final rebounding margin was 37-21 in favor of the Mocs.
UTC led 55-40 in the early minutes of the second half, but the Jags pulled within 58-56 with 10:59 to play. A 12-4 run including scores on six straight possessions gave UTC another 10-point lead that never dipped under double digits for the rest of the game.
"With the exception of UCLA, we have had a good mentality of keeping our gloves up and taking punches and then delivering some punches," Wade said. "I thought we were in great shape and we wore them down.
"This is one of those games that you win in June, July and August."
The payout in Vegas came in late November.
Contact David Uchiyama at email@example.com or 423-757-6484. Follow him at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP