It’s been a rough two days for Chattanooga’s John Shulman.
He hadn’t slept a whole lot since his team’s 26-point setback to UNC Greensboro on Thursday, and the ninth-year head coach couldn’t help but feel a bit like a leper.
“I’ve walked around with the plague, but that’s part of this profession,” said Shulman of the last 48 hours. “I take my son to eat today; go watch a few of his games, and there weren’t a whole lot of people talking to me.”
While it might not make the fans flock to the ninth-year head coach, at the very least, Shulman ought to get a good night’s sleep after his team’s 72-68 victory over the Southern Conference North Division regular-season champs Elon on Saturday evening.
“I wouldn’t think a whole lot of people bet on Chattanooga tonight,” Shulman said.
Maybe not, but that didn’t stop the Mocs from pulling off an improbable upset win over the Phoenix, restoring at least some momentum before the team hits the road for its final two regular-season games.
“What they did tonight was pretty special,” Shulman said. “After Thursday, to come back two nights later and play the best team in the North; to do that, that’s pretty special. I told them whatever the result may be, it’s going to reveal your character.
“I’m really proud of them, and they should be proud of themselves.”
Freshman Gee McGhee scored a career-high 24 points in the narrow victory, 13 of which came from the free-throw line, but the most impactful play from the 6-5 guard came at the other end, when he rejected what appeared to be an easy layup by Elon’s Ryley Beaumont with 1:09 remaining
“I don’t know how I did it, I just did it,” said McGhee, who came from the other side of the paint to make the stop. “I was smiling after I did it. I’ve never done anything like that in my life.”
It was just one of numerous must-have plays for the Mocs (12-17, 7-9), who snapped the Phoenix's four-game winning streak. Such as sophomore Ronrico White’s two free-throws in the closing seconds to extend his team’s lead back to two scores, or freshman Eric Robertson’s contested 3-pointer from the corner with 9:39 left, capping a 9-0 run and giving the Chattanooga its first lead in more than seven minutes.
“We laid an egg on Thursday and just wanted to redeem ourselves,” McGhee said. “We just wanted to make a good name for the city of Chattanooga, and make our fans proud. ... I’m proud of the whole team, I’m just so happy right now.”
Senior Drazen Zlovaric finished with 10 points in his final game at McKenzie Arena, as did junior Z. Mason, while White and freshman Casey Jones each added eight.
Jones, in just his fourth game back from injury, made his first start since injuring his knee against Reinhardt on Dec. 21, knotted things up at 56-56 on a contested floater with 10:52 remaining. The 6-5 forard also finished with five rebounds, three assists and a steal.
Beaumont led the Phoenix with 20 points, seven rebounds and three assists, but he shot just 4 of 10 from the floor in the final period and 1 of 4 from the free-throw line.
Elon hit 12 of 27 (44.4 percent) from beyond the arc. Beaumont and junior Sebastion Koch each knocked down three treys, while senior Josh Bonney and freshman Tanner Samson both buried a pair.
“We made enough free-throws and got enough stops,” Shulman said. “We weren’t perfect by any means. It’s a great win anyway, but after Thursday, it’s a fantastic win.”
The Mocs return to action on Thursday when they travel to Western Carolina before closing out their regular-season, and they'll close out the season with a trip to Boone, N.C., for a rematch with Appalachian State.
Michael Murphy covers UTC athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelNooga.