ATLANTA – The story at Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavillion on Wednesday evening wasn’t all that much different from that of Kansas’ Allen Fieldhouse in mid-November or LSU’s Pete Maravich Assembly Center last month.
Chattanooga provided the Yellow Jackets with a first-half scare, just as it had done to the heavily favored Jayhawks and Tigers, but once again, the Mocs melted away in the second half.
UTC (5-9), which concluded its non-conference schedule with Wednesday’s 74-58 setback at Tech, led for much of the first half, but the Jackets grabbed the lead late in the opening period with junior Z. Mason and freshman Farad Cobb on the bench with two fouls each.
“We were in survival mode,” Chattanooga head coach John Shulman said. “We were just trying to survive and get to the locker room with a chance to win the game.”
Despite being outscored 16-6 in the final 7:55 of the first half, the Mocs did that.
The Yellow Jackets reclaimed the lead when freshman Robert Carter, Jr. was fouled on his way to the rack, and after completing the three-point play to cap his team’s 8-0 run, Georgia Tech held an 18-17 edge.
UTC sophomore Ronrico White, who scored the final six first-half points for the Mocs, put Chattanooga back out in front with three straight makes at the free-throw line, but the Jackets closed the first half on a 10-2 run to claim a 28-23 halftime advantage.
Cobb, who finished with a team-high 14 points, four assists and zero turnovers, buried a 3-pointer just 17 seconds into the second period to bring UTC to within two, but the Yellow Jackets (10-2) scored seven straight to finally provide themselves with some breathing room.
Chattanooga, which trailed by as much as 18 in the second half, eventually pulled to within 11 with 4:28 to play after back-to-back jumpers by Mason and a pair of Cobb free throws. The Mocs were unable trim their second-half deficit to single digits, though.
“(First-half) foul trouble hurt us in this game,” Mason said. “We came up short on the glass, too. Just a lot of effort plays that we usually make. That’s the one thing that we can succeed in, and we didn’t do that tonight. In the end, we came up short.”
Mason finished with 14 points, but the 6-5 four man brought down just one rebound.
“We’ve got to do a better job rebounding the basketball,” Shulman said. “We’re going to watch (the tape) and see if it’s a box out issue, just not going up and grabbing it, or if it’s just that they’re 6-9 athletes and we’re 6-5. Sometimes that’s enough.”
Georgia Tech (10-2), which outrebounded UTC 42-25, dominated the glass in the second half, especially on the offensive end. After bringing down five offensive boards in the first half, the Yellow Jackets tripled their total in the final 20 minutes and finished with 21 second-chance points.
Sophomore Robert Carter Jr. finished with a double-double for Tech, scoring 13 points while bringing down a game-high 12 rebounds, while 6-11 junior Daniel Miller finished with eight boards – five offensive – and three blocks.
“One of the key markers for a team in the rebuilding phase is to not lose games that they shouldn’t,” Georgia Tech head coach Brian Gregory said. “I think that when you look over these first 12 games, we took care of the business that we were supposed to take care of. I was worried about this game.”
Senior Drazen Zlovaric added 10 points and six rebounds for the Mocs, who resume their Southern Conference schedule with Saturday’s trip to Samford, while White finished with six.
“It was a hard game to play for probably both teams,” Shulman said. “We’re ready to get in conference play, and they’re ready to get into conference play, too. I was worried this could shock our confidence. We’re still making strides, and I don’t think we leave here a shattered bunch. There were a lot of positives.”
Michael Murphy covers UTC athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelNooga.