Saturday night's 78-63 loss to UNC Greensboro, much to the chagrin of coach Lamont Paris, followed an all-too familiar pattern of late for his University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's basketball team.
Runs — or rather, problems stopping opponents' runs — have been plaguing the Mocs (11-15, 6-7 Southern Conference), who have lost five of their past six games. The Spartans (22-3, 11-1) used runs of 16-2, 9-0 and 11-2 in the second half to overcome a seven-point UTC lead at McKenzie Arena.
The visitors, whose only losses this season are to the Southeastern Conference's Kentucky and LSU and SoCon-leading Wofford, needed only a total of 8:10 of playing time to pull off the runs.
For Paris, it seemed like a re-run.
"They start making their run and we start playing with them, but then there's another surge later, and that has proved insurmountable to us," he said. "It's happened on more than one occasion. Some of it is youth. I'm not going to be silly to sit here and say it's not, but I'm not going to give the guys that out.
"Still, it's the first 10 minutes of the second half, and I look up and it's a one-point game and we are winning. We were doing something right to be in that position, and we have to figure out what we are doing to contribute to not having staying power."
UNCG was led by the dynamic backcourt duo of Francis Alonso and Isaiah Miller, who combined for 49 points. The hard-driving Miller had 13 — including a pair of three-point plays — in the first run, which came after Kevin Easley scored four straight to start the second half and put the Mocs up 35-28.
The Mocs, who were paced by Donovann Toatley's 16 points in just more than 16 minutes of play, 15 from Easley and 13 from David Jean-Baptiste, helped fuel the Spartans' runs with 22 turnovers, which led to 32 points.
"They are a very good team, and they always capitalize on other team's mistakes," Toatley said. "When you give a team like that multiple shots and let them get out in transition, they've got Alonso knocking down shots, Miller is driving hard and their bigs are running the floor. It's hard to give them chances like that and still be able to come back."
Toatley scored five straight to put the Mocs back in front at 46-45 halfway into the second half, but Alonso popped a 3-pointer and followed that with a short jumper to start the second run, which ended with Kyrin Galloway stealing the ball and making a layup for a 54-46 lead.
Easley's driving score cut it to seven with 5:32 to play, but the Spartans sealed it with the final run, which included six Galloway points.
"They just played their game," said UTC senior Thomas Smallwood, who had nine points on 4-of-5 shooting. "The change came from us. We made a few big mistakes, silly turnovers. When you have a team that presses like that, it gets their confidence up, and they picked up their game. We handled it well for a big part of the game, but not the entirety."
The Mocs' next three games are on the road, beginning next Saturday at Samford.
Paris hopes his young team take a step forward in the final stretch before the SoCon tournament.
"We are at a spot where we are looking at the games for what they are and for what they mean to our development, which is the most important thing," he said. "You are jockeying for position, and it really matters.
"The bottom line is, we need to get to playing well and finish games."