Commodores rally to edge Mocs, 76-74View 5 Photos
NASHVILLE — Sometimes, deserving to win a game isn't enough.
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's basketball team dominated most of the second half of its game at Vanderbilt, but some poor foul shooting down the stretch and a 3-pointer by the Commodores' 7-foot-1 Luke Kornet with 2.9 seconds to play led to a 76-74 UTC loss in front of 9,376 at Memorial Gymnasium.
The Mocs (8-3) will be home to face Jacksonville State on Wednesday.
"I thought we played well enough to win tonight," UTC coach Matt McCall said. "I thought some plays late could have gone our way and didn't, but I'm proud of the guys because we did what we set out to do.
"We had chances to win, but the ball didn't bounce our way."
Casey Jones led five UTC double-figure scorers with 16 points as the Mocs attacked the middle of Vanderbilt's 1-3-1 zone throughout, outscoring the Commodores 44-28 in the paint. A big difference in the game was at the free-throw line, where the Mocs were 13-for-19 while Vanderbilt was 26-for-29, including 15-for-17 in the second half.
In the second half, UTC was 5-for-9.
"Any time you play on the road, free throws will definitely be a factor," the Mocs' Tre' McLean said. "It's tough to win games on the road in college basketball.
"I guess that came back to bite us tonight."
Justin Tuoyo and Greg Pryor each scored 12 points in defeat. Tuoyo added nine rebounds and Pryor had five assists, but the latter missed the front end of a one-and-one free-throw opportunity with the Mocs up one preceding Kornet's 3.
Johnathan Burroughs-Cook scored 11 points, while McLean had 10.
Although nobody fouled out, the Mocs were plagued with foul trouble throughout. Tuoyo, Burroughs-Cook and Makinde London each finished with four fouls.
The Mocs led 38-34 at halftime and were able to push that lead to nine when a pair of London free throws made it 62-53 with 9:38 to play. But the fouls started to take their toll, with McCall forced to shuffle his lineup a lot, while the free throws started to hurt the Mocs. They were able to score at will driving in the paint, but not hitting much else.
Kornet and Matthew Fisher-Davis scored 18 points each to lead Vanderbilt (6-5). Jeff Roberson had 11 while Joe Toye scored 10.
Saturday was the Commodores' first win this season in a game decided by five points or less.
"It's definitely a big encouragement," first-year Vanderbilt coach Bryce Drew said. "We've lost a couple of close ones, but we have players on our team in different roles than what they've been in and they're adjusting."
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @genehenleytfp.