Matt Ryan scored 15 points, including six in the final 20 seconds, to lift the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga to a 68-64 win Saturday at the University of North Carolina at Asheville.
The Mocs' 14-point second-half lead melted away, with DeVon Baker's 3-pointer tying the game at 60 with 1:57 to play. UTC's David Jean-Baptiste made it a two-point game with free throws on the ensuing possession, and then Ryan — after a pair of defensive stops — made it a four-point game with a pull-up jumper with 19.3 seconds left.
Tajion Jones answered with a 3-pointer to cut it to one, and then the Bulldogs (6-5) immediately fouled Ryan. The Vanderbilt transfer calmly sank a pair of free throws to put the Mocs back up by three with 9.9 on the clock. UTC fouled to prevent a 3-point attempt, with the strategy working as Trent Stephney made just one of two shots at the line.
The Mocs (8-5) quickly inbounded to Ryan, who was fouled and sank his last two free throws to provide the final margin.
"I think their belief is really high in what we're trying to do, and that's a big part in what has helped (in close games)," UTC coach Lamont Paris said afterward. "It's a great group of young men, and I really enjoy coaching them."
The Mocs, who also received 11 points each from Maurice Commander and Ramon Vila, got seven consecutive points from Jean-Baptiste to build a 54-40 lead nine minutes into the second half, but a scoring drought that lasted nearly five minutes let the Bulldogs get back in the game.
"That's college basketball," Ryan said. "No lead is safe. We look up and see that we're up 14 with 10:50 on the clock at a media timeout. We said there's a lot of time left, and in a blink of an eye, the game's tied on a crazy run. For our team to weather that storm, to bounce back, to close out was big. We made some winning plays."
UTC, led by Vila's eight rebounds, held a 37-28 edge in that category and outscored the Bulldogs 12-5 on second-chance points. Paced by A.J. Caldwell's nine, UTC also dominated in bench points, 18-5.
The Mocs, who have won three of their past four games, return to competition when they host Cumberland University at 1:30 p.m. on Dec. 29, with the UTC women set to take on Ohio University at 4. Fans who donate two canned food items at the gate to help replenish the Chattanooga Area Food Bank will be able to buy one ticket and get one free.