Staff Photo by Margaret Fenton UTC forward Kevin Goffney drives past Smaford guard Curtis West during the second half of the second half of the Southern Conference men's semifinal game Sunday night. The Mocs won 75-65 and will face College of Charleston in the final Monday at 7 p.m.
John Shulman walked around on the floor of McKenzie Arena with his right index finger held high in the air.
He wasn’t saying that the Mocs are No. 1. He said the Mocs have one more game. Win it and they’re in, dancing in the NCAA tournament.
His University of Tennessee at Chattanooga team dispatched Samford 81-70 from the Southern Conference basketball tournament.
That one more game will be played tonight at 7 p.m. in McKenzie Arena against the College of Charleston which beat the Mocs 86-77 exactly two weeks ago. After that game Shulman said he wouldn’t mind playing the Cougars one more time this season.
He’s got his wish.
“We didn’t come here to win a game, we came here to win a championship,” Shulman said. “We’ve got one more.”
He’ll get that game thanks in large part to senior shooting guard Stephen McDowell who scored 32 points against the Bulldogs on Sunday.
McDowell shot 9-of-16 from the field and 7-of-10 from the 3-point line. He exited the game in the final minute to a standing ovation from the UTC fans.
Kevin Goffney scored 13 points and grabbed six rebounds to help UTC out-rebound Samford 40-19.
Bryan Friday led the Bulldogs with 17 points. Trey Montgomery and Josh Davis scored 16 apiece.
“McDowell was pretty good,” Samford coach Jimmy Tillette said. “They rebounded the ball and shot the ball.”
UTC made 25 of 52 field goals and 12 of 25 3-pointers. The Mocs made their first seven 3-pointers. McDowell hit 5-of-6 3s and scored 19 points in the first half.
Chattanooga trailed 27-25 before it went on a 13-2 run capped by a McDowell 3-pointer with 3:31 to go in the half.
Samford countered Chattanooga’s 3-pointers by shooting 13-for-21 but the Bulldogs still trailed 42-36 at the half.
“During tournament play it’s very difficult to bring emotion every night,” Shulman said. “We were so emotional (Saturday) that we were a little flat emotionally.”
McDowell capped a 17-7 run with a 3-pointer to give UTC a 63-50 lead with 9:36 to go. The Mocs’ largest lead was 69-53 maintained at least an 11-point lead until the final minute when it shrunk to eight.
Shulman slammed his dry-erase board to the ground after at the end of a timeout in the final minute.
“We have to do a better job of finishing games,” Shulman said. “Sometimes I get a little emotional. That’s OK, my wife still loves me.”
And he’s loving the fact that he’ll get to play one more game and it’s against Charleston.
“I remember them beating us on senior night,” said Nicchaeus Doaks. “It hurt all of us seniors. They took something from us.”
UTC can take back more than what they lost on Feb. 23.
“I don’t think they got our best shot,” Shulman said. “But I don’t know if our best shot is good enough for them.”
One more game and he’ll know.
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...