After Monday's upset victory over UNC Greensboro, Rodney Chatman was overcome with emotion.
He had gone through the gauntlet in a two-hour time frame. First, the lows: He turned the ball over 12 times, including one on the final possession of regulation. He missed a free throw that would have given his University of Tennessee at Chattanooga team the lead late in the first overtime and another that would have given the Mocs a three-point cushion late in regulation.
But his highs far outweighed his lows.
Chatman hit a pair of free throws with 4.5 seconds to play in the second overtime, and the resilient Mocs were able to hold on to defeat the Spartans — the second-place team in the Southern Conference entering Monday — 87-85 at McKenzie Arena.
The Mocs (8-15, 2-8) finished their three-game homestand 2-1 and are on the road for two straight, starting with Thursday's game at Western Carolina. They had lost by one to Virginia Military Institute two days prior.
"I thought our resiliency was huge," UTC coach Lamont Paris said. "I thought the same thing in the last game; I thought that was the one, that if we find a way to manage situations, the confidence it would give us going forward — not just in winning the close game, but managing that situation — the belief in performing in close situations would be big. To finally do that is great and very important for the overall growth and development."
Chatman's free throws were his most important points, but his best-looking came after a steal and banked-in 3-pointer from the corner that tied the game at 75. He was fouled on the play but missed what would have been the go-ahead free throw.facebook
His shot did cap a 7-0 run in the final 34 seconds of overtime after the Spartans (16-6, 7-2) went up 75-68, and that surge created a second additional period after a Marvin Smith jumper was short.
"It's things like that that make him such a great player," said UTC junior Nat Dixon, who scored a career-high 30 points. "A little adversity hits and he could have folded, but he knocked down those two free throws.
"He controlled the game; he's my point guard."
The Mocs made only one field goal in the second overtime, a 3-pointer by Makinde London a possession after the Spartans' Kyrin Galloway made one. The rest of the UTC scores were free throws, as the Mocs went 9-for-10 at the line in the deciding extra period.
"My turnovers could have lost us the game. I had too many and I was mad at myself for that," said Chatman, who didn't even realize he'd made the game-tying shot. "We're a team that never gives up. We have bad practices, but we bounce back and stay with it. We're a close-knit group and we always have each other's back, and that helps even more.
"If you have a team where guys don't like each other, when things go wrong they won't come together, but we try to stay as one because we know we're never out of a game. Down 10 or anything, we always try to fight and see what happens. That's our motto."
Dixon became the second Moc this season to score 30 (Makale Foreman was the first against The Citadel on Jan. 13). He made 9 of 16 shots from the field and all nine of his free throws and had a career-high eight rebounds. Chatman finished with 22 points and nine rebounds, which tied a career high for him.
Joshua Phillips had his first career double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds, while London and Foreman had nine points each.
Foreman, assigned to cover UNCG shooter Francis Alonso, held him to 7-for-21 shooting, 4-for-16 from 3-point range, and 20 points. Alonso fouled out on Chatman's final drive.
UNCG coach Wes Miller also lost Marvin Smith, James Dickey, Jordy Kuiper and Galloway to fouls.
"People didn't have high expectations for us, but at the end of the day we have high expectations for us as a program, as a team," Dixon said. "Coach Paris has high expectations for us, so we go in every game, play as hard we can because we want to win every game."
Isaiah Miller finished with 17 points for UNCG, while Smith and Galloway had 14 each. The Spartans made 16 field goals and were 6-for-15 from 3-point range in the first half but made 15 field goals and were 3-for-23 from 3-point range the rest of the way.
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @genehenleytfp.
This story was updated Jan. 29, 2018, at 11:57 p.m. with more information.