Chattanooga still has a way inside the top six in the SoCon if they can beat Wofford in their regular season finale on Saturday.

In a back-and-forth battle that featured 20 lead changes, the Chattanooga Mocs men's basketball team dropped a tough 75-70 contest to Southern Conference leader Samford on Senior Night inside McKenzie Arena on Wednesday. 

Following the loss, Chattanooga moves to an even 15-15 overall and 7-10 inside league play with one game remaining. The Mocs are locked in a three-way tie for fifth place with Wofford (matchup on Saturday) and ETSU. Samford improved to 21-9 and 15-2 in conference action.

Chattanooga claimed a 38-37 lead at the break after connecting on eight threes over the first 20 minutes while forcing nine Samford turnovers during the span. Samford pulled away late in the second half as UTC went cold shooting, finishing the second half just 8-of-28 (28.6%) from the field and 2-of-16 (12.5%) from deep. 

"I thought we battled throughout, and I'm proud of the guys for that, we just needed to make more plays down the stretch. We defended pretty well throughout the game, for the most part," said head coach Dan Earl. 

"Credit to Samford, they're a veteran group. They played hard, we played hard, we just didn't play well down the stretch. We had some good looks, but the ball didn't go down. We have to keep fighting and be ready for Wofford on Saturday."

Jamal Johnson finished the game with a team-high 21 points (6-of-15 FG) to post his third 20-point scoring effort in the last five games. Dalvin White reached double figures with 16 points (6-of-12 FG) and added a team-high three steals.

HOW IT HAPPENED

Chattanooga and Samford raced out of the gates with a combined six threes over the first four-plus minutes as the Bulldogs held an 11-10 edge at the 15:57 mark. The pace continued as Demetrius Davis knocked down consecutive threes to allow UTC to pull ahead 20-18 with 10:54 left in the opening half.

Both teams went back-and-forth at a fast pace as the visitors from Birmingham held a slight 25-24 lead with 7:58 on the board. Five quick points from Jamal Johnson gave UTC a 32-29 advantage before Samford answered with a deep ball to pull things even, 32-32, with just over three-and-a-half minutes left in the half.

Chattanooga would take a one-point lead, 38-37, into the halftime break after a successful and-one opportunity from Dalvin White gave the hosts a late lead. UTC and Samford each knocked down eight threes in the opening half on a combined 42 attempts from behind the arc.

The Mocs came out in the second half and claimed its largest lead of the contest at the time at six, 45-39 (14:31), before the lead remained at that difference, 50-44, with 11:52 left in the game. Samford rallied back to take the lead 58-56 before Johnson answered with his third triple of the game to put the Mocs back in front, 59-58 (6:49).

After UTC took the lead, Samford responded with a quick 8-2 run to build a 66-61 lead with 4:45 to play and didn't allow the hosts any closer than three points down the stretch to cap off the 75-70 victory.

RECORDS/SERIES – Chattanooga 15-15, 7-10 SoCon · Samford 21-9, 15-2 SoCon · Series: Chattanooga leads the all-time series 67-42.

NOTES TO KNOW

- Chattanooga and Samford exchanged leads 20 times while seeing seven ties in the back-and-forth affair… UTC led for 17:46… Samford for 18:34… both team's largest lead was six… both team's largest scoring run was 7-0.

- The Mocs attempted 41 threes for the second time in the last three games… finished just 10-of-41 (24.4%) from deep… lowest 3PT% since 23.7% (9-of-38) against ETSU on January 21…first loss this season when attempting 40 or more… 3-1.

Jake Stephens was one of the seven seniors recognized… became just the second player in Division I basketball over the last 30-plus years to record 1,800 points, 800 rebounds, 300 assists and 200 blocks in a career… still missing time due to injury.

A.J. Caldwell rounded out his lengthy and memorable career in the Roundhouse with nine points… added a team-high five assists… ties season-high.

QUOTES

A.J. Caldwell on playing last game in McKenzie Arena.

"It's a little surreal. It makes you think of where you've been and where you came from. I don't know if I have the right emotion right now. It just makes you think. I have really enjoyed my time here and I'll cherish it for a long time." On both sides of the floor.

Dan Earl on effort on both sides.

"We battled. Both sides of the ball. They're a tough group who presses all game long. I think we did a good job of not turning the ball over that much, we did some good things defensively. I did not think we executed offensively quite well. We got a little stagnant in how we moved offensively. Our guys felt like they could win, just didn't make the plays late."

NEXT UP – at Wofford – Saturday, Feb. 25 – 7:00 p.m. ET – Spartanburg, S.C. – ESPN+

Sports Director

Local 3 Sports Director Ben Bobick joined the Local 3 Sports team after two years on Florida’s Suncoast at SNN-TV in Sarasota, FL. After spending time as an MMJ and morning anchor in Sarasota, Ben is very pleased to finally follow his passion into sports.

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