Justin Tuoyo and his University of Tennessee at Chattanooga basketball teammates took it all in.
With about 15 seconds to play and East Tennessee State University on its way to a victory over the Mocs, the celebration from the ETSU players and the gold-clad sellout crowd of 6,149 at Freedom Hall began. It was the Buccaneers' first win over the Mocs since returning to the Southern Conference prior to the 2014-15 season, and their first win over UTC as a SoCon team in 4,722 days.
The Bucs left the SoCon after the 2005 season. The rivals played five times in nonconference games, with ETSU winning three of those contests, but UTC still leads the overall series 47-34 after the Bucs' 76-71 win on Saturday.
The Mocs (15-6, 6-3) have now lost back-to-back games for the first time since the 2014-15 season, when they fell to Kennesaw State and Georgia. On Saturday players spoke of regaining the hunger, and when Tuoyo was asked what it would take to do that, he said "this loss."
"You look around, and everybody's on their feet, the (ETSU) coaches got their hands up, this is their Super Bowl, man," Tuoyo said. "Everybody wants to beat Chattanooga. It's good what we did last year, but we should want that. We wanted that last year.
"Everybody wants to beat Chattanooga, and once you see that, once you see it's a party every time they win, let's break the party up. Let's go out there and make everybody mad, let's ruin everybody's day. So we've got to get hungry again. I think a couple guys who have never been in that position before seen it today. It was a Super Bowl when they won, and nobody won a championship today — nothing happened.
"We've got to play them again when they come to UTC, but this loss did it for us. You're going to see a different team on Thursday. I can bet you that."
The teams are at the midway point of the SoCon season, with the Mocs tied for third with UNC Greensboro. The Bucs and Furman are a game ahead at 7-2. The Mocs host UNCG on Thursday before a game with Western Carolina, which beat visiting Wofford on Saturday.
The Mocs played a lot better at ETSU than they did in a lackluster 80-64 loss at home to Virginia Military Institute last Wednesday. That was the good about Saturday's game — the bad was that they were pounded on the boards and had 16 turnovers that turned into 20 points for the Bucs.
"What we're dealing with every time we play on the road, it's a party," UTC coach Matt McCall said. "It's everyone wants to beat Chattanooga because of what Chattanooga has done in the past. There's a lot of adversity being thrown at this group right now, and it's about how you respond. The league wasn't won or lost tonight. We're now one game back.
"We now play everybody another time. Everybody's got to play each other another time, so it's about how we respond."
UTC senior Tre' McLean said the team is going through an educational stretch.
"We just have to keep pushing, keep taking steps," McLean said. "This is going to be a process. We knew this season was going to be way tougher than last because of what we've done in the past. We know everywhere we go, teams are going to want to beat us and that we're going to get everybody's best shot.
"We've got to play a full 40 minutes. We're not good enough to turn it on and off. We've got to come with it from the jump and stay together, stay connected and play for each other."