UTC men win at UNC Asheville to finish 3-0 road swing

Staff file photo by Troy Stolt / UTC guard Malachi Smith averaged 27.3 points and seven rebounds per game during the Mocs' 3-0 road swing that wrapped up with Wednesday's win against UNC Asheville. UTC hosts Tennessee Wesleyan on Sunday.

Malachi Smith continued his hot play, and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's basketball team won its 11th consecutive nonconference road game by defeating UNC Asheville 78-73 on Wednesday at Kimmel Arena in North Carolina.

The Mocs (8-1), who have won 19 of their past 20 nonconference games, host NAIA program Tennessee Wesleyan (10-2) at 2 p.m. Sunday at McKenzie Arena before a pair of huge road tests next week against Belmont (Dec. 15) and Murray State (Dec. 18).

UTC shot 57% from the field in the first half in building a 39-26 advantage at the break, then stretched that lead to 15 points in the second half before the Bulldogs (5-4) hit six 3-pointers in a six-minute span, five coming from Taijon Jones. His final one with 3:44 to play briefly gave the hosts a 69-68 lead before the Mocs scored the next seven to assume control.

"We'll take it. We had some guys that didn't have their best stuff, some guys that struggled overall, but we had enough," UTC coach Lamont Paris said, adding that the Bulldogs "got on a run in the second half, and defensively we've got to figure out what we're doing.

"Is it fatigue? You get a double-figure lead, are we getting complacent? I don't know. We've got to figure that out."

Smith finished Wednesday's contest with 27 points and eight rebounds, both team highs. The 6-foot-4, 205-pound sophomore guard averaged 27.3 points and seven rebounds during the Mocs' 3-0 road swing that also included wins against Tennessee Tech and Lipscomb.

A.J. Caldwell, who started the year 3-for-18 from 3-point range and had scored just 18 points in the first eight games, made five of his six first-half attempts and finished with 15 points. Silvio De Sousa added 14 points and Avery Diggs 11 for the Mocs, while David Jean-Baptiste missed 12 of his 13 shots but had a team-high five assists.

Compiled by Gene Henley. Contact him at ghenley@timesfreepress.com.