CHARLESTON, S.C. — Dontay Hampton suited up for Chattanooga for the first time all season at The Citadel's McAlister Field House, and it’s a good thing too.
While Hampton didn’t start for the visiting Mocs, the fifth-year senior played plenty of minutes, and he was on the court when the game was on the line. Not only did Hampton deliver a pair of crucial 3-pointers late, the 6-1 guard provided UTC with some much-needed veteran presence down the stretch in Thursday’s back-and-forth battle with the Bulldogs.
“Dontay’s been through all the wars, more than anybody on this team” Chattanooga’ Z. Mason said. “If there’s anybody we need on the court in crunch time, it’s him.”
Hampton, who finished with 11 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals, knocked down back-to-back treys to finally knot things at 62-62 after the Mocs had trailed for much of the second half.
“I feel like I provided that veteran leadership, helped my team stay focused and stay together,” Hampton said. “We don’t want to be like last year’s team that loses the close games. Me, Z. and (Ronrico White), we’ve been there — we've seen it — and I was just telling them we don’t want to be that team.”
Chattanooga (7-9, 2-1 Southern Conference) claimed its first lead in more than 15 minutes on a jumper by Mason with 1:09 remaining, and UTC shot 6-for-6 from the free-throw line in the final 23 seconds to secure a 70-65 win. It's the school’s first back-to-back SoCon road victories since Jan. 2011.
Things didn’t look good the Mocs minutes earlier, though.
The Bulldogs, who trailed 29-28 at the break, opened the second half with a 14-4 run, sinking eight of their first 10 shots from the field, and they led by as much as 10 midway through the period. The Citadel was also taking care of business on the glass.
“If you’re going to be good defensively, you have to end every possession with a rebound,” said Shulman, whose team narrowly won the rebounding battle, 35-32. “If we want to take the next step, it’s get more physical and rebound the ball.”
6-8 center Mike Groselle ripped down a team-high seven rebounds for the Bulldogs, who finished with 13 offensive boards, while Stephen Elmore and Matt Van Scyoc each brought down six.
Scyoc finished with a game-high 20 points, and the 6-6 freshman shot 5 of 10 from beyond the arc.
The Citadel’s 2-3 zone was also providing problems for the Mocs, especially with Mason’s signature mid-range jumper not falling.
“We had to get a feel for how they were playing us,” Mason said. “They played 2-3 the whole game which is something we’re not used to. We just had to find ways to get our offense going through the zone. We found a way to pull it out in the end.”
Mason, who finished with a team-high 15 points, didn’t have one of his better shooting nights — 4 of 11 from the field — but the 6-5 junior knocked down all six of his shots from the stripe.
Senior Drazen Zlovaric had his best offensive showing in quite some time (14 points on 6 of 6 shooting), but the 6-9 center was virtually non-existent on the glass (1 rebound). Sophomore Ronrico White also finished in double figures with 11, seven of which came in the second half, and freshman Farad Cobb added 11, including two 3-pointers.
The Mocs return to the court Saturday at College of Charleston (4 p.m.)
Michael Murphy covers UTC athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelNooga.