CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Maybe Georgia was overseeded. Maybe Chattanooga was underseeded. Whatever the case, the Bulldogs are heading home early after losing to the Mocs 73-70 in the first round of the Southeast Regional here at the Charlotte Coliseum Friday.
Many college basketball observers had cried foul when Georgia (24-9) was awarded the No. 3 seed in this region. Today, many are saying ``I told you so'' as Georgia fell behind by 20 points in the first half and could not wipe out the deficit despite a furious second-half rally.
``We're very proud that the selection committee made us a No. 3 seed and I still believe we deserved it,'' said Georgia coach Tubby Smith. ``That's a tough team we played today. I knew they were a dangerous team coming in and I knew we had to be ready to play. We were, it's just that they were more ready. They shot the ball extremely well and there was not much we could do about it. They were making some tough, double-clutch shots with people in their face. All the credit goes to them.''
The game ended when G.G. Smith's 3-point attempt with one second left was partially blocked by Chattanooga's Marquis Collier. The Bulldogs, who trailed the entire game, had gotten to within one point on Ray Harrison's 3-pointer with 1:06 to play.
But Chattanooga, champion of the Southern Conference, made all the right moves in the final minute and held on for just the second NCAA Tournament victory in school history.
``I never really thought about losing this game,'' said Chattanooga coach Mack McCarthy. ``I just thought these kids would find a way to win.''
The Mocs improve to 23-10 on the season and advance to the second round where they will face Illinois on Sunday.
It was only the fifth time in tournament history that a No. 14 seed beat a three seed. It was not the biggest upset of the day, however. East Region No. 2 seed South Carolina fell to 15th-seeded Coppin State 78-65 on Friday.
The Bulldogs failed in their bid to establish a school record for wins in a season. They tied the Georgia mark instead and finish the year at 24-9. Not bad for a team predicted to finish fifth in the Southeastern Conference's Eastern Division and win just 12 to 14 games this season.
``We'vehad a great year,'' said Smith, who welcomed nine newcomers to this year's team.``I'm really proud of these guys. I'm proud of the effort we gave today to getback in the ball game. I don't think it was so much what we didn't do as whatthey did do.''
What the Mocs did was shoot the lights out, especially early in the game. They scored on their first eight possessions of the game and built a 20-2 lead less than five minutes into the contest. For the game, Chattanooga shot 54.3 percent field, 55 percent from 3-point range and made 17-of-22 foul shots. They got 24 points from guard Willie Young and 19 from heralded forward Johnny Taylor.
``We dug ourselves a hole early and didn't get it back into until the second half. Then it was too late,'' said Harrison.
Statistically, it appears that Georgia did not play so bad. The Bulldogs shot 46 percent from the field, above their season average, out-rebounded the Mocs 35-26, had a season-low seven turnovers and made 12-of-17 free throws in the second half as they out-scored Chattanooga 39-27.
G.G. Smith led Georgia with 18 points and Harrison added 14. The Bulldogs were hurt by their wing play. Michael Chadwick and Derrick Dukes combined to go 2-for-14 from the field. They also missed 2-of-6 free throws in the first half.
Smith fielded questions afterward as to why he chose not to foul after calling a timeout at the :45.7 mark with the Bulldogs trailing 72-70.
``I'm going to do it that way every time,'' he said. ``They've still got to get the ball inbounds, they've got handle the ball, they've got to get in their offense and find a shot. We still had time. They missed the shot. We just didn't get the rebound.''
Georgia, which had trailed the whole game, cut the Mocs' lead to 70-69 when Lorenzo Hall rebounded his own missed free throw and kicked it out to Harrison, who buried a trey with 1:06 to play.
The Mocs answered with yet another Young runner in the lane. With 45.7 seconds left, Harrison was fouled but missed the first of two free throws. Chattanooga dribbled out most of the shot clock and Young waas forced to take a bad shot from the right baseline. But Chattanooga's Collier bailed them out by grabbing the rebound and Larry Brown was forced to foul him.
Collier made the second of two foul shots with 10.4 remaining, giving the Mocs just the margin they needed to press Georgia on the subsequent inbounds. The Bulldogs used eight of the seconds just to get the ball over the timeline where they were forced to call a timeout and set up the final ill-fated play with 2.7 seconds left.
Chattanooga played a near perfect first half. The Mocs shot 61.5 percent from the field, had just two turnovers and made 7-of-8 free throws.
Meanwhile, Georgia couldn't hit the side of Charlotte Coliseum early. It missed its first five shots while the Mocs made every one of theirs and built a 15-0 lead in the first 2:58.
The Bulldogs had no answer for Johnny Taylor, who scored 10 points in the first three minutes and finished with 12. Chattanooga led by as many as 20 points and were ahead 46-31 at halftime.
If not for Adrian Jones, the Bulldogs might have been in even worse shape. Jones scored nine points during a stretch when nobody else on the team could. He did not score in the second half, however.
TENNESSEE-CHATTANOOGA (73) - Conner 2-5 0-0 5, Taylor 6-12 5-6 19, Mims 4-6 1-3 9, Young 8-14 6-7 24, Moore 1-2 0-0 3, Hutchins 0-0 0-0 0, Phillips 3-6 1-1 7, Collier 1-1 2-3 4, Oloko 0-0 2-2 2. Totals 25-46 17-22 73.
GEORGIA (70) - Chadwick 1-7 0-0 3, Nordin 0-1 0-0 0, Hall 2-5 1-4 5, Smith 6-13 4-4 18, Harrison 6-10 1-2 14, Brown 2-2 4-4 8, Jones 3-6 1-2 9, Oliver 1-1 0-2 2, Baker 3-3 1-2 7, Dukes 1-7 2-3 4. Totals 25-55 14-23 70.
Halftime- UTC 46-31.
3-Point goals- UTC 6-11 (Taylor 2-2, Young 2-3, Moore 1-1, Conner 1-3, Phillips 0-2), Georgia 6-15 (Jones 2-2, Smith 2-4, Harrison 1-1, Chadwick 1-5, Dukes 0-3). Fouled out- Taylor, Brown. Rebounds- UTC 26 (Mims 6), Georgia 35 (Hall 7). Assists- UTC 13 (Mims, Moore 3), Georgia 11 (Smith 7). Total fouls- UTC 21, Georgia 20. A- NA.