Entering the 2020-21 season University of Tennessee at Chattanooga senior guard David Jean-Baptiste was 0-10 against East Tennessee State — including his redshirt season — and had lost all eight on-court battles against the Bucs.
Some games, close. Others, more lopsided, but each game went in ETSU's favor.
That changed this season, as the Mocs secured a regular-season sweep of the Bucs Monday with a 53-51 win at McKenzie Arena. But oh, how close that was to not being the case.
In the closing seconds, Ledarrius Brewer missed the second of two free throws, but the ball was rebounded by former Hamilton Heights standout Silas Adheke, who whipped a pass to the corner to Damari Monsanto, who nailed a fadeaway 3-pointer that sent the ETSU bench into a frenzy.
Only one problem: an ETSU assistant coach had called timeout prior to Monsanto's shot, which gave the Mocs time to set up a defense.
The Bucs gave Monsanto another opportunity out of the timeout, but his 3 from the top of the key bounced off and gave the Mocs the win, improving them to 17-5 on the season and 8-5 in the Southern Conference with Western Carolina coming to town Wednesday.
It wasn't pretty on either end. Neither team shot it well, although the Mocs were better from 3, making eight of 27 attempts. The Bucs pounded the paint for 26 points.
But Jean-Baptiste — and the Mocs – got their sweep.
"Man, it's all for the city," he said. "It was a great team win; they (ETSU) have great guys that come in every year and they're a well-coached team, but our confidence has grown and we're just playing and competing every possession.
"That's a good win. We're just trying to keep it going."
Jean-Baptiste didn't dominate the game offensively, but what he did was control the pace of the game from the lead guard spot. The stats only suggest he was average (six points, two assists), but he also had a career-high three blocks.
The difference in the game was the Mocs' 3-point shooting, which led to an 18-point edge in points and gave the Mocs just enough space to pull away.
That would be the ETSU timeout, because that shot was good.
The last time the Mocs swept the regular-season series against the Bucs, they won the SoCon championship (although they had to win again in the championship game to do so). This team may be on that trajectory, it may not. But it's been a wild ride.
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @genehenley3.