A season ago, Saturday night's game at Vanderbilt was the type the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's basketball team would have found a way to win.
In games that were tight down the stretch, the 2015-16 Mocs were able to deliver wins against Georgia, Illinois and Dayton. They swept conference rival East Tennessee State and won the games they needed to earn the Southern Conference championship.
But against the Commodores, the shots — at least the necessary ones — didn't fall. The stops — the important ones — didn't happen.
Up by one with eight seconds to play, point guard Greg Pryor — who made the two game-winning free throws in last season's win at Dayton — missed the front end of a one-and-one. The Commodores rushed the ball up court, and point guard Riley LaChance handed the ball off to 7-foot-1 center Luke Kornet, who nailed a contested line-drive 3 over Justin Tuoyo to put Vanderbilt up 76-74.
Kornet entered the game making 23 percent of his 3-pointers but was 3-for-6 against the Mocs.
The Mocs called timeout and attempted to run a play, but Tre' McLean's futile shot attempt was taken after the buzzer.
UTC coach Matt McCall addressed the comparisons of this season to last after Saturday's loss, saying "we'd never had this happen to us since I've been here."
"These close games against (major conference) teams, we've found a way to win," McCall said. "We hadn't experienced this yet. Throughout the course of the season, you experience a lot of different things; ups and downs, adversity.
"How we respond, how we handle this will be really, really important to our team."
But for the Mocs, this one hurt. Vanderbilt was the one team in the state that the Mocs really wanted to play. For the senior class, a win would have meant a 3-0 record against the Southeastern Conference after last season's win against Georgia and the victory at Tennessee in this season's opener.
"We knew this was one we could get," said Tuoyo, who had 12 points, nine rebounds and two blocks. "Coach McCall talks about us leaving a legacy with the seniors, and this is a big one we wanted, so it definitely hurts. We know we could have won, but we know we've got to get better.
"I feel like it's on me (the way it ended), but I've got to deal with it and look forward, so that's what I'm going to try to do."
The Mocs shot 54 percent from the field and outrebounded the Commodores by six, but they also committed 14 turnovers and were 13-for-19 from the foul line, including 5-for-9 in the second half with misses on the front end of a couple of one-and-one situations.
This time, they just didn't fall.
"We played a great game," guard Tre' McLean said. "It's tough coming into this environment and we played really well, but you can't win them all. The ball ain't going to always bounce your way.
"Even in games last year we won, we gave up wide-open 3s — the ball just didn't go in. The ball went in tonight; that's just the game of basketball."
Pryor became the 22nd member of UTC's 1,000-point club Saturday, scoring a layup for the first points of the game. He needs just one assist and five steals to join Casey Long (2004-07) as the only Mocs with 1,000 points, 300 assists and 150 steals. Casey Jones moved into 11th-place all-time in the UTC Division I scoring era with 1,129 points, passing Eric Smith, who scored 1,122 from 1978 to '81 and Tim Parker, who had 1,117 from 2000 to '03. The Mocs host Jacksonville State at 2 p.m. Wednesday in their nonconference finale.