The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's basketball team saw a 10-point halftime lead turn into a 10-point loss Tuesday night at the Ramsey Center in Cullowhee, North Carolina.
Western Carolina used 31 points, 29 in the second half, from transfer Mason Faulkner and 21 from Carlos Dotson to post a 87-77 Southern Conference-opening win. The Catamounts (6-2) outscored the Mocs (5-4) 58-38 in the second half, hitting 18 of 31 field-goal attempts after shooting just 11-of-24 in the first half.
"It's a stinky defensive half," UTC coach Lamont Paris said. "We just didn't compete, and that's just disappointing."
The Mocs were led by Matt Ryan with 18 points and seven rebounds. He had 16 points in the first half on 7-of-13 shooting but hit just one of seven second-half shots. David Jean-Baptiste added 14 points, with A.J. Caldwell getting 12.
Dotson, who shot 10-of-11 from the field, led a 39-24 WCU rebounds edge with 12.
"There's a chance of that," Paris said of the possibility the Mocs tired due to travel. "Some of it was, with Rod out, our rotations were different. Some guys looked a little gassed. It was a tall order, but it would have been all that more fulfilling to win tonight after all these road games."
The game was tied at 12 when UTC freshman Grant Ledford hit a 3-pointer to spark a 16-4 run that also included two treys from Maurice Commander and one from Caldwell. Ryan's 3-pointer gave the Mocs a 39-29 halftime lead, but the game quickly changed after intermission.
Western cut the lead to two seven minutes into the second half, but Ramon Vila completed a three-point play for a 53-46 Mocs lead at the 10:46 mark. Faulkner then took over, scoring eight quick points for a 63-59 lead, with Dotson adding a rebound putback for a six-point WCU advantage with six minutes to play.
UTC never got closer the rest of the way and had to resort to fouling late. Paris, on his postgame radio interview, ripped into his team's defensive effort.
"We didn't compete defensively with Carlos Dotson," he said. "I'm not taking anything away from him, but he was 10-of-11 and didn't have to prove it. Faulkner is a really good player, and he made some good plays, but the plays that got us were when he drove right down the lane and no one stepped in."
The Mocs return to McKenzie Arena on Sunday with a 1 p.m tipoff against Tennessee Wesleyan.
Contact Lindsey Young at email@example.com or at 423-757-6296; follow on Twitter @youngsports22.