CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's basketball team out-lasted Georgia Southern (4-20/0-11) 75-66 Thursday night in McKenzie Arena. Chattanooga improves to 14-10 with a Southern Conference best mark of 10-2.
Ricky Taylor and Omar Wattad scored 19 points apiece for the Mocs. Taylor (4-4) and Wattad (5-7) combined to shoot 9-11 from three-point range in keying UTC's 12-19 performance from beyond the arc. The Mocs' 63.2 percent shooting from three-point land ties for the second-best in school history.
The Eagles' Ben Drayton led all scorers with 24 points passing the 1,000-point mark for his career. He added four rebounds and five assists.
Chattanooga opened the second half with an 11-2 run to jump out to an 18-point lead, 52-34, on a Wattad layup in transition at 15:31. But Georgia Southern countered.
GSU posted a 21-5 run of its own over the next five-plus minutes to close to within two, 57-55, at 10:19 on a Drayton three-pointer. The Eagles hit all five threes they attempted during the spurt.
The Mocs battled back with three-pointers by Keegan Bell and Wattad. The lead went back to six on the latter's trey at 6:57. Georgia Southern got within three twice including 69-66 on a Jelanie Hewitt three-pointer at 1:29, but Chattanooga closed with six straight points for the win.
Chris Early had 13 points, six rebounds and four assists (tying career high) for UTC. He was pivotal down the stretch answering each time the Eagles got back to a three-point deficit in the final minutes.
He responded to a Drayton fastbreak layup with a strong three-point play at 1:41 to get the lead back to six. Early answered Hewitt's three with a jumper in the paint to shut the door on the Eagles.
Bell chipped in 12 points, nine assists and two steals in 39 minutes of game time. Hewitt had 10 points and four assists for GSU.
There was just one lead change and one tie in the game. The Eagles opened scoring the game's first five points. Three straight three-pointers by Taylor (2) and Wattad put the Mocs up 9-5. Back-to-back Eagles field goals tied it at nine.
Chattanooga led by as many as 11 in the first frame on a Bell layup at 9:30. The Mocs shot 65.2 percent from the field (15-23) before intermission which is its best shooting start of the season.
The two teams combined for 39 turnovers with 20 for Georgia Southern and 19 for UTC. The Mocs took better advantage of the Eagles' miscues with 25 points off turnovers to GSU's 14.
It was a strong performance from the field. Chattanooga hit 59.1 percent (26-44) from the field, while Georgia Southern tickled the twine at 54.9 percent (28-51). With all the made shots, there were just 46 rebounds between the two schools, 23 apiece.