published Sunday, March 15th, 2009

Ex-Moc recalls thrill of ’05 NCAA game

Former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga basketball standout Alphonso Pugh prefers to dwell on the better memories of the 2005 NCAA tournament game against Wake Forest.

“I remember us being up 12 in the first half,” he said, “but in the second half the best point guard in the nation and probably now in the NBA, Chris Paul, took over.

“That game made me realize that anybody can win at any given time. You have other teams rooting for the lower seeds, and we were just trying to get the upset. You’re in a field of 65 teams, so for that one year you can be looked at as one of the top 65 teams in the nation.”

Pugh, who scored 13 points in the game, had a key tip dunk and a 3-point basket during the surge that gave the Mocs a 27-24 halftime lead. They wound up losing 70-54.

“I just remember it was about halfway through,” Pugh said of the follow-up slam. “Matt Malone took a shot from the top of the key, and when I saw him take it, I went running for the rebound. I got up high enough and flushed it.”

The memories still remain vivid for Pugh, who just finished a stint with UMF Tindastoll in Iceland.

“When I hit that 3, I remember looking at (now-deceased Wake Forest coach) Skip Prosser and telling him to call time out,” Pugh said. “It was fun. We were playing against Wake and against a lot of NBA candidates and Prosser, who was the best coach in Wake history. The whole atmosphere gives you an NBA-type feel.”

That was UTC’s first NCAA tournament game since the Sweet 16 run of 1997 — and the Mocs’ last one until whenever they play this week.

“The best advice I can give these guys is to have fun and take this for what it’s worth,” Pugh said. “This is the NCAA tournament, so play hard and don’t hold anything back. The atmosphere can be overwhelming, but they should just have fun, because once that happens, you’re more relaxed and you play the game better, instead of being anxious and playing tight.”

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