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Chattanooga's Jeremy Saffore grabs the rebound from over the head of Elon's Drew Spradlin during their game at Elon Friday. Photo Scott Muthersbaugh, Burlington Times-News.

ELON, N.C. - The visitors' bench and a handful of fans jumped out of their seats in Alumni Gym.

They repeated the act several times in the final minute of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's 71-65 Southern Conference basketball win at Elon on Friday.

The Mocs led by three points with three minutes to play and held on for the six-point win by maintaining their composure for their fifth win of the season - four of which have come down to the final minute.

"We just don't freak out in close games," UTC point guard Keegan Bell said. "We have belief in each other. It's a different player every night."

Bell tied his career high with 23 points, including seven in the final four minutes. Omar Wattad added 16 points, and DeAntre Jefferson contributed his second career double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

"This is a huge win because it's a place where we haven't had a whole lot of success," Mocs coach John Shulman said. "We have to use this and springboard us. We've had success and flattened out. We have to take this and grow."

The Mocs are now 3-0 in the Southern Conference and in sole possession of first place in the North Division. They last started 3-0 during the 2007-08 season.

Friday's contest was the fourth straight Mocs-Phoenix meeting in Alumni Gym that came down to the final minute. UTC has won two of the four.

"We wish it would have come out differently," second-year Elon coach Matt Matheny said. "We're still learning. The more close games that you're in, the better you'll be at it. I like to think we're getting better in them."

Freshman Jack Isenbarger continued a trend of Elon guards having memorable nights against the Mocs (5-6, 3-0).

He led the Phoenix (4-6, 0-3) with 22 points on 6-of-11 shooting from the 3-point line. Guard Chris Long, who averaged 22.5 points against UTC last year, contributed nine points as four different Mocs defended him during the game.

"I love Jack's poise," Matheny said. "He doesn't appear to be a freshman; he appears to be a veteran."

Elon senior Scott Grable pulled a veteran move in the first half. As the Mocs tried to huddle before Chris Early shot a set of bonus free throws, Grable made his way into the Mocs' huddle.

Early didn't appreciate it and said something that referee Mark Schnur said was "taunting" and gave Early a technical foul.

"I like that," Jefferson said. "I'll take that because he's fighting for the team."

Long hit the free throws with an empty lane for a 20-13 lead. Elon pushed its lead to 26-16 before UTC crept back within one on two occasions.

The Mocs headed into halftime down 35-33, but they were taking more free throws than the Phoenix and out-rebounded them 25-18 in the first half.

"I walked into the locker room and I hear [Jefferson] saying, 'We have to keep killing them on the glass,'" Shulman said. "I liked that."

He also liked the Mocs continuing those trends in the second half. The Mocs outglassed Elon 48-31 and went 17-of-29 at the free-throw line while the Phoenix went 8-for-16.

"The numbers that jump off the page are the rebounds and their free throws," Matheny said. "They won the game."

Elon inched out to a 51-46 lead before going cold from the floor. UTC limited Elon to two points for more than six minutes and built a 58-53 lead with 5:35 to play.

Elon pulled within three with three minutes to play but couldn't get any closer. Early punctuated the victory by catching a pass and dunking with two hands while getting fouled.

Then the Mocs cheered again at the end.

"It means we're No. 1 in the North," Wattad said. "We're 15 games away from going 18-0."

UTC sophomore Josh Odem did not play because Shulman was not pleased with his latest academic progress report. Fall-semester grades will be finalized early next week.

Contact David Uchiyama at duchiyama@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6484. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP

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