Chattanooga (8-11, 3-3) at Elon (11-7, 4-2)
Thursday, Jan. 24, 7 p.m. ET
Alumni Gym (1,585) • Elon, N.C.
Radio: ESPN 105.1 FM
Series Record: Chattanooga leads 11-9
Probable Chattanooga Starters
G-Ronrico White, 6-3, 170, SO (9.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.0 apg)
F-Z. Mason, 6-5, 238, JR (14.2 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 1.0 bpg)
C-Drazen Zlovaric, 6-9, 220, SR (8.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg, .500 FG)
G-Farad Cobb, 6-0, 160, FR (6.3 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.6 apg)
G-Gee McGhee, 6-5, 200, FR (10.1 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.4 apg, 1.4 spg)
Key reserves: Dontay Hampton (6-1, 176, SR); Jared Bryant (6-7, 240, SO); Martynas Bareika (6-4, 208, SO); Sam Watson (6-7, 245, JR).
Probable Elon Starters
F-Ryley Beaumont, 6-7, 220, JR (10.4 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.6 apg)
F-Lucas Troutman, 6-10, 220, JR (15.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 2.1 bpg)
G-Jack Isenbarger, 6-2, 180, JR (14.0 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 2.4 apg)
G-Sebastian Koch, 6-8, 200, JR (8.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 2.2 apg)
G-Tanner Samson, 6-4, 193, FR (5.3 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.0 apg)
Key reserves: Ryan Winters (6-7, 210, SO); Tony Sabato (6-7, 225, FR); Kevin Blake (6-3, 190, SO)
The opening tip
Chattanooga is extremely fortunate be where it is.
In their last four games, the Mocs have faced at least a 12-point deficit in the second half, but somehow have managed two wins. They could very easily be 0-4 in that stretch, which would put them dead last in the entire Southern Conference standings. As it is, though, they're just two games behind SoCon North Division leader Samford.
UTC is still within striking distance, but the team desperately needs to improve its defense. The Mocs have given up 86 points or more in each of their last three games, including a season-high 90 in Saturday's loss to Western Carolina — more than No. 3 Kansas, LSU or Georgia Tech scored against them.
Chattanooga is ninth in the SoCon in scoring defense (71.4 ppg), and the team's rebounding numbers have also started to slip, especially at the defensive end, where they're No. 5 in the conference (33.9 drpg).
Mocs head coach John Shulman has said there will likely be changes to the starting lineup Thursday, but he wouldn't go into much more detail. Dontay Hampton could make his first start of the season at point guard, but Shulman wasn't sure if the 6-1 senior's broken hand would allow it. Inserting Hampton into the starting lineup would make sense
The Pheonix, winners of three straight and five of their last seven, are fifth in the SoCon in scoring (69.9 ppg). They've eclipsed the 80-point mark three times in the last month, and have three players scoring in double figures — Lucas Troutman (15.3 ppg), Jack Isenbarger (14.0 ppg) and Ryley Beaumont (10.4 ppg).
Elon has been without junior Austin Hamilton for more than week after the 5-10 guard suffered a leg injury in the team's 80-67 win at Western Carolina. It hasn't seemed to have much effect, though, as the Pheonix are 2-0 with freshman Tanner Samson in the starting lineup.
"This is the dog days. We're approaching a two- or three-week period where a lot of stuff is going to happen. We're either going to be in, or be out of it. … There's no doubt in my mind when we go to the tournament there'll be about six or seven teams that can win it." — Chattanooga head coach John Shulman on his team's final 12-game stretch.
Mocs junior Z. Mason was named the Southern Conference Player of the Week after averaging 22 points and 8.5 rebounds in last week's 1-1 stretch. The 6-5 forward shot 14 of 26 (53.8%) from the field, 3 of 6 (50%) from 3-point range and 13 of 16 (81.3%) from the free-throw line. … The Southern Conference North Division is far from decided. Through six games, all six schools are within three games of first place. Samford leads the North at 5-1, Western Carolina is 5-2, followed by Elon at 4-2. The Mocs and Appalachian State are both 3-3, and UNC Greensboro is another game back at 2-4. … Chattanooga holds an 11-9 series advantage over the Phoenix, and the Mocs are 3-3 in their last six games at Elon. The team's three losses are by a total of five points, while its three wins came by a combined 17. … The Phoenix lead the SoCon in field-goal percentage defense (40.5%), turnover margin (+3.6), assist-to-turnover ratio (1.2) and is tied for first in made 3-pointers per game (7.7). … Matt Matheney has compiled a 49-63 record in four seasons at Elon.
Michael Murphy covers UTC athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelNooga.