Bears weather Mocs rally, win in OT

Bears weather Mocs rally, win in OT

January 30th, 2015 by Gene Henley in Sports - College

Mercer guard Jestin Lewis (5) and UTC 's Casey Jones (24) while going after a loose ball during their game Thursday Jan. 29, 2015. (Macon THE TELEGRAPH by JASON VORHEES)

Mercer guard Jestin Lewis (5) and UTC 's...

Photo by Macon THE TELEGRAPH by JASON VORHEES

MACON, Ga. -- The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga basketball Mocs dug themselves out of a 15-point hole in their Southern Conference game at Mercer on Thursday.

They couldn't get out of another hole in overtime.

The Bears had three players with 18 or more points -- led by Darious Moten with 21 -- and edged the Mocs 75-72 in front of 3,585 fans in the 3,200-seat Hawkins Arena.

That ended the Mocs' five-game winning streak. They will be back home to face The Citadel on Saturday at 6, following the UTC women against Mercer at 3.

Casey Jones had a career-high 24 points and 15 rebounds to lead UTC (14-8, 7-2) but missed a potential winning shot at the end of regulation. Greg Pryor scored 21 points, and Ronrico White added 10 points with five assists.

Ike Nwamu added 20 points for the Bears, while Phillip Leonard had 18. The Mocs won the rebounding battle 43-32, with 21 offensive rebounds that led to 21 points.

"I thought it was a great college basketball game. Will (Wade, UTC's coach) does an outstanding job getting his guys in positions to be successful," Mercer coach Bob Hoffman said. "They were hard to guard, but we found a way to get stops at the end, and found a way to get it done."

The Bears (12-10, 7-2) fed off the loud home crowd early, hitting their first five shots and jumping out to a 17-5 advantage. The lead maxed out at 27-14 late in the first half, and UTC had to battle back throughout. Pryor sank a 3-pointer with about 45 seconds to go to cut the margin to seven, but a 3 by Nwamu gave Mercer a 36-26 lead at the break.

"You've got to have faith in the game plan," Pryor said. "We stuck to what we talked about in the locker room. We kept sticking with it, and finally came through.

"They're a pretty good team, though, and they took on a run for our money."

Mercer stretched its lead to 44-30 with 15:11 to go, but again UTC rallied, this time with a 23-9 run that tied the game at 53 on a dunk by Justin Tuoyo. The Mocs then took their first lead of the game on a 3-pointer by Pryor with 3:52 to play, and there were three ties and three lead changes over the final 3:12 of the second half.

Leonard was fouled by Tuoyo -- his fifth -- with 29 seconds to go and the Bears trailing by one. He hit the first free throw, but the second rimmed out, and Jones then shot a jumper from the top of the key that hit the back iron.

The Bears scored the first six points of overtime. The Mocs again rallied, with Jones hitting a pair of free throws and a layup. UTC forced a Mercer turnover, but Pryor was stripped by Leonard and subsequently fouled by White. Leonard missed both free throws, but White missed a 3-pointer, and Nwamu split a pair at the free-throw line for the final margin.

"They were fired up," Wade said. "It was a great environment. We gave ourselves a chance, but it just wasn't enough tonight. We'll get back and review film. The reason we lost tonight is stuff we can correct; it's basketball stuff.

"That's my job as a coach, and we'll correct it."

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.


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