Malachi Smith never had any doubt.
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga sophomore guard knocked down a contested jumper with 0.4 second to play, giving the Mocs a 56-54 win over Virginia Commonwealth University on Saturday at the Siegel Center in Richmond.
The winning play was actually drawn up for senior forward Silvio De Sousa, but Smith saw an opening and hit a 15-footer.
"I told my teammates that if I get the ball, it's going in," Smith said on the postgame Zoom conference. "I know I put the work in with the late nights and all, so I felt good about it."
Smith led the Mocs with 20 points, adding five rebounds. De Sousa, an offseason transfer, had his first career double-double at UTC with 15 points and 10 rebounds, while David Jean-Baptiste added 12. The Mocs led for more than 29 minutes in the game and won despite getting only three points from the bench, on A.J. Caldwell's first 3-pointer of the season.
He was one of only five players who scored for UTC, with K.C. Hankton contributing six in just less than 15 minutes of action.
The Mocs improved to 4-0 for the second consecutive season, and they return home to face NCAA Division III program Covenant College of Lookout Mountain at 11 a.m. Tuesday. It will be Hamilton County Schools Education Day at McKenzie Arena.
"Our guys felt like if they played well, if we played well on the defensive end especially, we would have a great chance to win, and that's exactly what we did," UTC coach Lamont Paris said on the postgame Zoom about the Rams (2-2), who have qualified for nine of the past 10 NCAA tournaments.
"We made some mistakes, a couple of things happened here and there, and gave ourselves a chance to make a play on the last possession."