If you had to have your hard-earned, three-game winning streak snapped, a 16-point road loss to a traditional ACC power isn’t a bad way to do it.
Chattanooga’s setback on Wednesday wasn’t even as lopsided as the 74-58 score would indicate, except of course on the glass. Aside from being annihilated by the Yellow Jackets on the boards, the Mocs once again hung tough with a heavily favored opponent.
UTC (5-9), which was outrebounded 42-25, went down to Georgia Tech with one thing in mind: capturing a victory. That didn’t happen, but the Mocs accomplished something just as important—they left Atlanta with their confidence still intact.
“We had some momentum coming in here,” Chattanooga head coach John Shulman said. “To me, we’ve still got momentum. We didn’t lose any traction. If anything I think our guys leave here thinking we’ve got a chance to be a lot better than people thought we’d be.”
The Mocs scored 58 points and shot 42.0 percent from the field against one of the top defenses in the country. The Yellow Jackets, fifth in the nation in scoring defense (53.1 ppg) and third in field-goal percentage defense (34.5), hadn’t given up more than 48 points in their last three games, including a 73-41 rout over The Citadel on Dec. 22.
“I like where we’re going offensively,” Shulman said. “We played in character. If we’ve got to regroup — have an ice bath party (Thursday) — then that’s what we’ll do. We’ve got to get our legs back. That’s the most important thing.”
Freshman Farad Cobb scored 14 points to lead the Mocs, his most since at Kansas on Nov. 15, and collected four assists while not committing a single turnover.
While not as flashy as his performance against the Jayhawks — 21 points on 7 of 9 shooting from beyond the arc — Cobb’s play at McCamish Pavillion on Wednesday didn’t feel as flukey. The 6-foot, 160-pounder appeared more comfortable in his third-career start at the one, and he seems to have finally started grasping the finer points of the position.
“I took care of the ball,” Cobb said. “I’ve been in a horrible slump offensively, and I feel like I got out of that tonight. I got some some confidence back.”
Cobb’s offensive resurgence couldn’t have come soon enough. He’s going to be an integral piece for the Mocs as they look to make a push in their remaining Southern Conference schedule.
“We’ve got 17 games left, so hold on,” Shulman said. “We’re going for a ride. Who knows where that ride is going to take us, but I feel pretty good getting ready to start that journey.”
The journey Shulman’s referring to is the Mocs’ SoCon schedule, which actually began on Dec. 1 with team’s 81-55 home loss to Davidson. Chattanooga’s conference schedule resumes Saturday with a trip to Samford (3-11), a game the players are eagerly anticipating.
“This is what matters for our season,” junior Z. Mason said. “This is what determines our season and our postseason. It’s definitely refreshing to kind of start a new season, and I feel like our guys are ready. We’ve just got to get a little rest and get ready for this weekend.”
Wednesday’s game at Georgia Tech was the first of four straight on the road for the Mocs, where they’re 1-4 this season.
Michael Murphy covers UTC athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelNooga.