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Updated with more information at 12:30 p.m. on March 9, 2020.

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's hopes for a Southern Conference men's basketball title ended with a 72-70 loss to Wofford in the league tournament semifinals Sunday night in Asheville, North Carolina.

Veteran Wofford guard Storm Murphy hit a jumper in the lane with three seconds to play to break a tie after the third-seeded Mocs (20-13) had led by four with just more than two minutes to play.

The Mocs, who swept the seventh-seeded Terriers (19-15) during the regular season, are likely to receive a bid to an invitational tournament after the remaining conference tournaments conclude next weekend.

Wofford plays regular-season champion East Tennessee State (29-4) at 7 p.m. Monday at Harrah's Cherokee Center with the league's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament on the line. The Buccaneers rolled in Sunday's earlier semifinal, 97-75 against fifth-seeded Western Carolina (19-12).

Ramon Vila led UTC with 19 points and seven rebounds, with Matt Ryan adding 16 points and Commander 13. Murphy topped Wofford with 15, followed by Tray Hollowell with 12, Messiah Jones with 11 and Chevez Goodwin with 10.

"What a hard-fought game that was," UTC coach Lamont Paris said. "Someone was going to have to end up losing, and it ended up being us. Two teams that really played hard. I can't say enough about how our guys competed and what they did, how hard they played.

"It didn't always look pretty, and it didn't always yield the results that we wanted, but as a coach, I've done this a long time. You don't always get a group of guys that are always going to play as hard and do what is asked, and that's what these guys did."

UTC trailed by eight at halftime and by 10 with just less than 15 minutes to play before consecutive 3-pointers by Ryan, David Jean-Baptiste and Ryan again cut the margin to a point at the 12:10 mark. One minute later, Jonathan Scott's 3-pointer put the Mocs up 50-47, and Ryan briefly put UTC up five on another triple, which also resulted in his 501st point this season.

The score was tied three times over the next six minutes before Commander's 3-pointer put the Mocs up 67-64 with four minutes to play. Vila put the Mocs up 70-66 with 2:08 left on a nice up-and-under move, but his basket provided the final points of the night for UTC.

The lead was two with 1:29 left when Ryan's long 3-pointer was off, leading to a pair of Ryan Larson free throws on the other end to tie it with 1:02 remaining. The ensuing UTC possession featured another long 3-point miss by Jean-Baptiste that Scott rebounded, though Ryan turned the ball over with 20 seconds left, a costly empty possession.

"I think Dave had a good look on the wing, and we got the offensive rebound," Ryan said. "I think we stalled a little bit because the shot clock goes to 20 and not 30, so we wasted a little bit of time and had to force something. I wish I had that play back so I could get a better shot, but stuff happens. They were playing some really good defense."

Wofford, after a timeout, got the ball quickly to Murphy, who worked around a screen at the top of the key, pump-faked at the free-throw line and deftly hit a 15-footer for the winning margin. Commander's half-court heave was well off at the buzzer.

"Coach drew up the play, and you have to trust what he is drawing up," Murphy said afterward. "Coaches and teammates have confidence in me, and that helps so much."

Contact Lindsey Young at lyoung@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6296. Follow him on Twitter @youngsports22.

 

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