Chattanooga, Tenn.,– When UTC senior Casey Jones, New Orleans, injured his ankle last week in practice, the expectation was to see some struggles out of the Mocs. But they’ve continued to improve.
Chattanooga followed up their big win at Dayton with a 80-69 victory over in-state foe Tennessee Tech at McKenzie Arena on Tuesday. The win marked UTC’s second win-in-a-row without their leading scorer, and pushed their record to 8-2; a mark that hasn’t been reached in 12 years.
With so much production missing from the lineup, UTC head coach Matt McCall has preached the importance of doing the little things–especially rebounding.
“I told our team this before the game that the biggest key in the game is rebounding,” McCall said. “They’re doing it by committee which is what you want. They’ve all done a good job but I think Tre’ McLean (Charleston, S.C.) is almost like ‘okay without Casey being in the lineup, I’m going to really put my emphasis on rebounding’ and that’s something you can control.”
McCall’s words led to the Mocs controlling the rebounding margin by 13, but it was outside shooting that made the biggest difference in Tuesday night’s win.
Eric Robertson, Huntsville, Ala., and Greg Pryor, Memphis, had the hot hands for Chattanooga early and often. The duo combined for eight 3-pointers against Tennessee Tech, with five coming in the first half alone. The team as a whole shot 60 percent from deep–a home game team record.
The little things, however, were turning into big mistakes in the first half. Turnovers initially made things closer than they should have been, but a the lights-out shooting by the Mocs continuously fended off any momentum by the Golden Eagles (7-4).
“We had 10 turnovers in the first half, and we shot over 50 percent from the three-point line and over 50 percent from the field. So looking at the stat sheet and you only have an eight-point lead, something’s wrong,” McCall said. “We cleaned up the turnovers in the second half. I think we only had four.”
UTC’s eight-point halftime lead grew quickly as the second half played out.
A couple Justin Tuoyo, Fayetteville, Ga., free throws gave the Mocs a double-digit lead less than five minutes in. And a Dee Oldham, Nashville, layup marked the biggest lead of the game for Chattanooga (23 points) just under 10 minutes in .
Tennessee Tech’s Hakeem Rogers heated up in the second half for 16 points to close the gap but the inspired effort wasn’t enough for the Golden Eagles.
McLean knocked down two 3-pointers in the second half for a game-high 19 points and eight rebounds. Pryor and Robertson finished with 17 and 15 points respectively, while junior Johnathan Burroughs-Cook totaled 14 points coming off the bench.
Chattanooga will host Kennesaw State Friday night in the second of their three-game homestand; an opponent this Mocs team has some recent history against.
“We’re basically going in with the same mentality that we did tonight,” McLean said. “In our eyes we’re the underdog–Kennesaw State has been up the past two years that I’ve been here. They’re going to be pretty hyped up to play us. We need to handle business.”
Tip-off for UTC v.s. Kennesaw State is scheduled for 7 p.m.
*Header photo by Chattanooga Athletics