published Sunday, February 19th, 2012

UTC Mocs’ nightmare continues

Bad exited and worse arrived.

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga lost 48-46 to The Citadel — one of the eight worst teams in Division I basketball — Saturday night in McKenzie Arena.

UTC entered the game with a Ratings Percentage Index of 294. The Bulldogs were ranked 336th out of 344 teams.

And the head-to-head matchup came down to the final possession in the Southern Conference game.

“You have to find somebody to blame. I can handle that,” Mocs coach John Shulman said. “I’m going to keep on coaching until they tell me not to. I’m going to back our kids and I’m going to back our program.”

Point guard Keegan Bell came down and launched a 25-footer from the top of the key on the final possession after a timeout in which Shulman drew up a double-high ball screen with shooters on the wings.

Dontay Hampton wrestled away the rebound with six seconds left. He passed across the court to Bell, who missed another 3-pointer at the buzzer.

“I just felt good,” said Bell, who shot 2-of-8 from the floor. “I don’t know how it didn’t go in. We had two shots at it.”

UTC (10-19, 4-12) ensured a 20-loss season for the first time since moving up to the Division I level in 1977 — unless it wins out for the national championship.

Junior Dontay Hampton led UTC with 12 points and Drazen Zlovaric had 11. The senior trio of Bell, Omar Wattad and Ricky Taylor shot 3-of-27 from the floor.

Lawrence Miller led the Bulldogs with 15 points, all on 3-pointers, and Mike Groselle collected 15 rebounds.

The Mocs have lost 11 of their last 12 games. The Bulldogs (5-22, 2-14) had lost 11 straight before Saturday.

“It’s not been an easy season,” Citadel coach Chuck Driesell said. “We’ve had a lot of close games. Like UTC, things haven’t fallen our way.”

The combined ineptitude was offensive.

One first-half series included back-to-back backcourt violations followed by an air ball. Then a Citadel player missed an uncontested layup and had a second attempt blocked by Jahmal Burroughs.

Hampton closed the half with a fade-away 3-pointer from the right wing as the horn sounded. It gave UTC a 26-25 lead at the break, which was its first lead since 5-4 two minutes in.

“It was a sigh of relief just to be up,” Bell said. “When [Hampton] hit that, it gave us a good vibe.”

After halftime, neither team played well enough to pull away.

Even after holding The Citadel without a point and forcing six turnovers in a seven-minute stretch, UTC led only 38-33 with 7:51 to go.

UTC expanded its lead to 43-36 before Driesell called timeout. Then the Bulldogs scored seven straight, including a 3 by Miller, who held his shooting form while sprinting back to play defense.

Marshall Harris III hit a 3 and Groselle put back an air ball with one tick on the shot clock for a 48-44 lead. Ronrico White scored on a layup. Then Burroughs forced a turnover from Groselle to set up the final play.

“We thought they might run a flat screen, so we were in our man-to-man,” Driesell said. “It looked like they were getting ready to run it and [Bell] pulled it. We didn’t want to lose by three.”

They won by two.

“I guess the only statement I’ve got is that I really, honestly, feel bad for our fans,” Shulman said. “I feel bad for what’s going on.

“We’ve got a lot of wet eyes again.”

about David Uchiyama...

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 ...

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