By Jake Moore, Staff Writer
When a basketball fan sees a 7-foot tall center, they don’t see a three point shooting threat. Thomas Smallwood, Bordeaux, France, made people think otherwise after shooting 100 percent from three point range. Leading the Mocs to a hard fought 71-70 victory against the VMI Keydets.
“A road win is a road win,” said Smallwood. “No matter how you get it, the most important part is to get it. After that, the coaches will dissect it a little bit and see what went well and what went wrong. We’ll grow from it, but the most important thing is that we got the win.”
Smallwood was the team’s leading scorer on Thursday with 16 points. Smallwood also contributed off the ball with six rebounds and two assists. Smallwood also got a big bump in minutes compared to the Mocs previous games.
“I think it was because I was hitting shots, I’m ready for those minutes whenever they come my way,” said Smallwood. “I was happy to get them tonight and be good for the team on the road when we were kind of struggling a little bit. I’m happy to come up big and help get the win for the team.”
The Mocs managed to establish a winning pace in the first half. Smallwood led the team in first half scoring with nine points and David Jean-Baptiste, Miami, followed him with eight points.
The Keydets managed to hold the Mocs leading scorer, Kevin Easley, Indianapolis, to only five first half points.
Despite the Keydets defensive press, the halftime buzzer rang with the Mocs’ heading to the locker room with a 45-41 lead over VMI.
The second half saw both a defensive and offense lapse for the Mocs—only managing to score 26 points in the second half.
“I thought they did a great job of adjusting to some of the stuff we were doing in the first half,” said Head Coach Lamont Paris. “We ended up with 45 in the first half and we sold ourselves short with some of the shots around the basket. We could have been in a much better situation at half time, but that’s just how it shook out. They made some good adjustments in the second half and we kind of got stagnant in what we were doing on offense.”
One of the biggest keys to the Mocs victory was the team’s ability to shut down VMI’s bench compared to UTC’s own bench success. The Mocs’ bench tallied 30 points while the VMI bench only managed to get off four points.
When the game came down to the wire it was the hot hand, Thomas Smallwood, who managed to keep the game in check.
“We made enough plays. Thomas made a big three in the corner in front of the bench, that was big one, just from the momentum swing and seeing some points go on the board,” said Paris.
The Mocs held the advantage as VMI’s would be game winning three sailed bass the rim bouncing gently along the floor. The Mocs are heading back to the Scenic City with a 71-70 win over VMI.
“We’ll get back and I said to the team, we’re going to actually learn from this one,” said Paris. “We’d be forced to try and learn if that shot had went in at the end. I said, let’s learn now. Let’s learn what we didn’t do, why things happened. I thought there were some times we made some big times errors and in the second half we didn’t score the ball.”
With high morale, the Mocs will face off against the highly touted UNCG Spartans February 9 at the McKenzie Arena.