For more than 30 minutes Wednesday night, an undermanned University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's basketball team was competitive with one of the best programs in the Southern Conference.
It was around that time the Mocs' opponent found another gear.
Furman went on a 17-2 run midway through the second half and cruised to a 73-55 win in front of 2,471 at McKenzie Arena, handing UTC its fifth straight loss.
The Mocs (6-11, 0-4) are on the road for their next three games, starting with a 1 p.m. tipoff Saturday against The Citadel at McAlister Field House in Charleston, S.C.
UTC took on Furman (13-4, 4-0) with five scholarship players and eight players total available for the Mocs, including no scholarship post players after junior Makinde London was ruled out due to a lower body injury that occurred in practice Tuesday. That left senior walk-on Joshua Phillips as the only interior presence, with freshman guard Jonathan Bryant and freshman walk-on A.J. Bowers the only options coming off the bench.
Another freshman walk-on, Nick DesMarais, did not play.
"We had a good effort — a better than good effort, I would say," UTC coach Lamont Paris said. "That's the effort we need in every game. We got down and battled back. There are a lot of factors that go into the equation of winning a basketball game, and effort is a big one, and we had tremendous effort. I don't think anyone that watched the game would argue that.
"There are some basketball plays we've got to make better, but from an effort standpoint, boom, check that box. That gives you a chance to be in a good spot throughout most of the game."
All five starters played at least 36 minutes, with two — guards Nat Dixon and Makale Foreman — playing all 40. Dixon finished with a career-high 21 points, adding five rebounds, while Foreman scored five points with a pair of assists and two steals.
Point guard Rodney Chatman finished with 13 points and team highs in rebounds (seven) and assists (four).
The Mocs fell behind by 16 in the first half, but they used a 13-2 run to cut into the deficit and trailed only 36-31 at the break. They remained close in the second half, with a pair of Dixon free throws making it 49-46 with 9:47 to play, but that was around the time the Paladins started to make a run predicated on shot-making and defense.
John Davis hit a 3-pointer from the corner, followed by a pair of Andrew Brown layups. Matt Rafferty nailed a 3 from the left wing and a long jumper on the next possession, and by the time Dixon hit a free throw with 3:09 to play, the Mocs were down 66-50.
"We lost focus," Chatman said of that key stretch. "Part of it may have been fatigure, but we lost focus. They hit a couple of 3s and were able to extend the lead."
The Paladins scored 19 points on UTC's 11 second-half turnovers.
Rafferty led Furman with 17 points, while Brown finished with 16. Devin Sibley, last season's league player of the year, finished with nine points on 3-for-11 shooting, but added 10 rebounds. Daniel Fowler also had nine for the Paladins.
"I'm proud of our guys for making sure towards the end of the game, we responded the right way," Furman coach Bob Richey said. "It wasn't our cleanest game of the year. We got off to a good start, but I thought our defensive intensity went down and theirs went up, and we got ourselves in a tight game. Credit our guys for making sure towards the end when it got tight, we were able to separate and had a lot of guys step up.
"I thought we really came together at the end and played some connected basketball that we're accustomed to."
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @genehenleytfp.