They were dominant when it mattered.
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga basketball Mocs outscored East Tennessee State by 16 points in the second half Saturday night, holding the Buccaneers without a field goal for 12:09, and won 67-59 in front of 5,179 fans at McKenzie Arena and an American Sports Network television audience.
The victory gave the Mocs their first 20-win regular season since 1993-94 and their first 20-win season since 2004-05. It also secures them of no less than second place in the Southern Conference heading into the final weekend of the regular season.
Ronrico White led the Mocs (20-9, 13-3) with 20 points in his final home game, with four 3-pointers. Casey Jones had 17 points and seven rebounds, while Justin Tuoyo had 12 rebounds to go with eight points and seven blocked shots. The blocks number gave him 94 for the year and set a single-season school record, topping Zaccheus Mason's 92 last season.
UTC limited the Bucs to 8-for-31 shooting (26 percent) in the second half. ETSU (16-11, 8-8) made 11 of 12 free throws.
"It was a great defensive effort except for the fouling," UTC coach Will Wade said. "I wish we'd kept them off of the line, but we really locked down in the second half. I felt we gave them points in the first half. I don't mind giving up points, but I don't like giving up stuff we can control.
"I thought we did a better job of not doing that in the second half."
Jalen Riley scored 31 points for the Bucs. He had 16 in the first half, which ended with ETSU up 30-22. The visitors limited UTC to 29 percent shooting from the floor in the first 20 minutes, and if it wasn't for Jones' 10 points and Tuoyo's six, the margin could have been worse.
In the second half, it was all about UTC's defense. The Bucs led 34-30 after a transition layup by A.J. Merriweather with 16:09 to play, but by the time Lester Wilson's jumper pierced the nets with 4:02 remaining, the Mocs led 52-44.
Rashawn Rembert, the Bucs' second-leading scorer at 15.5 points per game, was held scoreless, missing all three of his shots in 22 minutes. According to ETSU coach Murry Bartow, the 6-foot-3 senior guard had been battling sickness and missed the previous three days of practice.
The Bucs also are missing guard Devin Harris, who is out with an injury.
The Mocs shot 53 percent from the field in the final 20 minutes and were 19-for-22 on free throws.
"They played a heck of a second half," ETSU coach Murry Bartow said. "We played pretty good in the first half, but in the second half they dismantled us. They defended hard, and we couldn't get anything going offensively."
The Mocs hit the road for the final weekend of the regular season, as they visit Virginia Military Institute on Thursday and UNC Greensboro on Saturday.
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.