Appalachian State (7-8, 3-1) at Chattanooga (7-10, 2-2)
Thursday, Jan. 17, 7 p.m. ET
McKenzie Arena (10,928) • Chattanooga, Tenn.
Radio: ESPN 105.1 FM
Series Record: Chattanooga leads 42-30
Probable Chattanooga Starters
G-Ronrico White, 6-3, 170, SO (9.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.8 apg)
F-Z. Mason, 6-5, 238, JR (13.2 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 1.0 bpg)
C-Drazen Zlovaric, 6-9, 220, SR (8.6 ppg, 4.9 rpg, .512 FG)
G-Farad Cobb, 6-0, 160, FR (6.6 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 1.5 apg)
G-Gee McGhee, 6-5, 200, FR (9.6 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.3 apg, 1.4 spg)
Key reserves: Dontay Hampton (6-1, 176, SR); Martynas Bareika (6-4, 208, JR), Jared Bryant (6-7, 240, SO), Sam Watson (6-7, 245, JR)
Probable Appalachian State Starters
F-Michael Obacha, 6-8, 215, FR (3.6 ppg, 3.6 rpg)
F-Nathan Healy, 6-7, 210, SR (14.3 ppg, 6.9 rpg, .446 3P)
F-Jay Canty, 6-6, 200, SO (15.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 2.8 apg)
G-Tab Hamilton, 6-3, 180, SO (10.2 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 1.0 apg)
G-Mike Neal, 6-2, 185, SO (10.6 ppg, 1.6 apg)
Key reserves: Tevin Baskin (6-6, 210, JR); Jamaal Trice (6-6, 220, SR); Chris Burgess (5-8, 175, FR); Brian Okam (7-0, 245, JR)
The opening tip
The Mocs resume their Southern Conference schedule on Thursday, and for the first time in nearly three weeks, they’ll be playing at home. Chattanooga concluded a four-game road swing last Saturday with an 86-59 loss to College of Charleston, and the players are more than ready for their return to McKenzie Arena.
UTC’s momentum took a hit after the lopsided loss to the Cougars, but head coach John Shulman, whose team has won five of its last seven, looked at the game as yet another learning experience for his young squad. What was that lesson? The Mocs need more physicality and toughness. Chattanooga was outrebounded by a season-high 14 boards Saturday, gave up a season-high 86 points, were outscored in the paint 40-20 and senior Drazen Zlovaric and Z. Mason finished a combined 4-for-22 from the floor with just eight rebounds.
The Mountaineers, winners of five in a row, have five double-digit scorers on their roster, led by sophomore Jay Canty’s 15.3 points per game. Senior Nathan Healy (14.3 ppg) isn’t far behind, and the 6-7 forward is also the team’s leader of the glass (6.9 rpg). ASU, which is coming off back-to-back home wins over Elon and UNG Greensboro, are 5-2 at George M. Holmes Convocation Center, but have struggled a bit on the road. The Mountaineers captured a 50-49 win at Wofford on Jan. 8, but they’re just 2-6 away from home on the season.
Head coach John Shulman on responding to Saturday’s loss: “We’ve got a young team so it was a good wakeup call for us; you can sulk about it or pout about it. How will we respond? We’ll respond in the right way. We just need to grow up, get tougher, meaner and do a better job of defending.”
There will be a canned food drive for the Chattanooga Area Food Bank on Thursday. Each fan that brings three or more canned food items will receive free general admission ticket, while the first 100 will receive lower-level seats. Donations can be made at the Gate One McKenzie Arena ticket office throughout the week or on game day. ... There is a student pep ralley scheduled for Thursday at 5:45 p.m. inside McKenzie Arena. ... Sophomore forward Lance Stokes is expected to suit up on Thursday for the first time since breaking his foot in the Mocs’ 77-65 loss to Southeast Missouri on Nov. 18. ... ASU head coach Jason Capel has compiled a 36-41 record in three seasons with the Mountaineers. He’s 2-2 against Chattanooga. ... The Mountaineers and Mocs have shared just one common opponent: High Point. ASU suffered an 86-64 home loss to the Panthers in early November, while UTC captured a 68-61 win in the opening round of the Dr. Pepper Classic on Dec. 28.
Michael Murphy covers UTC athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelNooga.