Mocs fall at VMI as final three is off the mark

Photo Courtesy of Patrick Murphy-Racey/ Makinde London (pictured) and Nat Dixon had 16 points apiece leading the Chattanooga Mocs in a narrow defeat at VMI

(Editor's note: this story & accompanying photo was contributed by Jim Horten of

The Chattanooga Mocs played their 11th game that ended in the final possession losing 68-65 at VMI. It didn’t look like that would be the case early in the second half.

Garrett Gilkeson’s free throw with 17:52 left capped a 20-4 VMI spurt building a 17-point lead, 43-26. The Keydets still led by 17, 47-30, with 15:50 to go on another Gilkeson basket. The Mocs began to chip away.

Three straight triples from Makale Foreman, Nat Dixon and Makinde London sandwiched a Tyler Creammer jumper and Austin Vereen 3pt to cut it to 13, 52-39. London scored on back-to-back jumpers followed by one from Dixon. Six straight scoring trips cut the margin to five, 52-47, with 10:55 remaining.

It took four minutes before the Mocs would score again. Bubba Parham stretched the lead back to 11, 58-47, before David Jean-Baptiste got the visitors back on the board with a jumper at 6:50.

Parham looked to put the game away three minutes later. His triple with 3:34 to go made it a nine-point affair. UTC took over from there. Layup from Joshua Phillips, defensive stop. Free throw from Dixon, defensive stop. Dunk by London, turnover in the press and 3pt by London and it’s a one-point game, 66-65, with 1:24 remaining.

The Keydets worked the clock and got a late jumper from Gilkeson that came off and was tipped out front by Fred Iruafemi. Twenty-two more seconds off the clock and Parham missed under strong defensive pressure. Iruafemi made another play to keep possession with 36 seconds to go.

“They were going aggressively,” Coach Lamont Paris explained. “They were going to the boards, and if you box them out properly and aggressively…one, you have a chance to rebound it, and two, they probably foul you. But if you don’t, they keep the ball alive. Which they did on that possession and that was the game.

"That is game-winning time.”

Then there was a break. Vereen dribbled into trouble and London picked his pocket. He came into the front court where a Keydet came from the back side to tip the ball. The referees ruled the ball out of bounds on London with 8.6 to go. Gilkeson was fouled on the in-bounds and made two with 6.9 to play.

A final timeout from VMI set the scene. London brought the ball into the frontcourt and got a good look from 22 feet. The shot was just off the mark for the 68-65 final.

London and Dixon each led the Mocs with 16 points sharing game-high honors with Parham. Makale Foreman added 14. Iruafemi posted 12 points and nine boards in his final game at Cameron Hall.

“You can’t play that poorly for most of the game and feel like you are going to have a chance to win,” Paris continued. “You can’t play harder and believe more and do things better because more shots are going in. That is not how our program is going to be built. We will not be a program, that since we are scoring, I guess we will play some defense now too.

“We are not going to be built that way and that is what we were doing. We were not getting stops. We still couldn’t rebound. Two critical offensive rebounds at the end of the game.”

The Mocs bounced back from an early six-point deficit with back-to-back baskets from Dixon. The latter was a triple to pull with one, 23-22, with 6:42 to play.

The Keydets held their visitors to just two free throws the rest of the half. Late buckets from Myles Lewis and Keith Smith extended the lead to 13 at the break, 37-24.

The Mocs now head to Asheville, N.C., this week for the Southern Conference Championships.