ATHENS, Ga. - University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's basketball coach Matt McCall was informed earlier this week that in recent memory, new UTC head coaches haven't lost their first career game.
"I'm thinking, 'You're going to say this to me now?'" McCall joked.
Luckily for McCall, he won't be the first.
The Mocs went on the road Friday and upset Southeastern Conference opponent Georgia 92-90 in overtime in front of 5,925 fans at Stegeman Coliseum. The win was the program's first over an SEC team since the Mocs beat Tennessee 69-68 on Dec. 5, 2004, which was former head coach John Shulman's first season.
UTC went to the NCAA tournament that year.
Casey Jones and Johnathan Burroughs-Cook scored 23 points each for the Mocs, now 6-28 all-time against the Bulldogs. They won despite being whistled for 33 fouls, which allowed Georgia to shoot 45 free throws. Jones, Tre' McLean and Eric Robertson all fouled out of the game, while Burroughs-Cook, Justin Tuoyo and Greg Pryor each had four.
"I mean, this isn't like a championship game for us. I felt we prepared for it and came in knowing we were going to win," Pryor said. "We didn't come in hoping something was going to happen. We knew we'd take the challenge and go at this team like any normal team we'd play.
"We didn't let the SEC status get to us. We just played, played our game and went as hard as we could."
Jones had all but two of his points in the final 25 minutes, adding six rebounds and three assists. Burroughs-Cook pounded the lane for drives and baskets but also made three 3-pointers in the win.
"We had a lot of people on the bench in foul trouble," Jones said. "Tre' put it in my head that I needed to step up and sort of put the team on my back, so in the second half I got a little more aggressive.
"Even as a senior, I don't understand how big it is to win this game."
The Mocs were 20-of-31 from the free-throw line but made 12 of 30 3-point tries.
They trailed for only 12 seconds in the first half, jumping out to a 11-3 advantage with a trio of Pryor 3-pointers. They led by as much as 11 on two occasions, early in the half and again late after a 3-pointer by Burroughs-Cook made it 39-28 with 25 seconds to go in the half.
Charles Mann hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to make it 39-31 at the break.
"I really felt our guys were in the moment the whole game," McCall said. "They were never rattled; it was all about the next play. We got off to a great start, which was one of the biggest keys in the game; if you watch the tape from last year, Chattanooga struggled at the beginning of the game, and when you play on the road in an environment like this, it's huge to get off to a good start so you emotionally know you have a chance."
The Bulldogs responded in the second half, quickly erasing the Mocs' lead. A layup by J.J. Frazier put Georgia in front for the first time, 53-52, and the Bulldogs would build a six-point lead with 5:57 to play. UTC responded with a 10-2 run to retake the lead with 1:56 to play, but a Frazier 3-pointer put Georgia back in front 73-72 with 45 seconds to play.
The Mocs ran a play for Jones, and the 6-foot-5 senior drove, was fouled and scored. He missed the free throw, and Mann was fouled on the other hit, splitting a pair at the line to force overtime.
Like the start of the game, the Mocs started quickly in overtime. Jones hit a jumper at the foul line, then Robertson nailed a 3-pointer from the right corner for a five-point edge. A 3 by Pryor gave UTC an 82-75 lead, and that was followed by a Tuoyo dunk. The Mocs never trailed in the extra period but had to sweat a pair of deep 3s made by Frazier to keep the Bulldogs close. His final made basket made it 92-90. The Bulldogs quickly fouled Dee Oldham, who missed both free throws with seven seconds to play.
UTC trapped after the rebound, and the Bulldogs were managed only a half-court heave by Will Jackson that was way off and sent the UTC players into a celebration on the court and the fans in attendance in sections JJ and KK at the top of the coliseum into a frenzy.
"This is a great start for the season," Burroughs-Cook said. "I feel this is what we need to move on with confidence through the season. We're not going to underestimate anybody; we're going to come out and play hard every night like we did tonight."
The Mocs host Hiwassee at 7 p.m. Monday.
Frazier led the Bulldogs (0-1) with 22 points and eight assists. Yante Maten and Mann had 17 each, with Maten adding 13 rebounds and four blocks, while Kenny Gaines had 12 before fouling out in 16 minutes.
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.