ELON, N.C. – For its fifth straight game, Chattanooga faced a sizable, second-half deficit Thursday at Elon, and, at least for a moment, it appeared the Mocs might just make a run at it.
That moment didn’t last long, though, and Elon’s Jack Isenbarger made it feel all the more brief.
Chattanooga (8-12, 3-4 SoCon), which trailed by as much as 12 in the first half, pulled to within seven on junior Z. Mason’s 3-pointer early in the second half, capping a 10-3 UTC run.
“At that point I felt like we were definitely going to come back and take a lead,” said Mocs freshman Eric Robertson, who scored a career-high 11 points.
A little more than three minutes later, though, the Mocs trailed by 20.
“The kid just got hot,” Robertson said.
Isenbarger, who finished with a game-high 23 points, blew the game open in the second half with a shooting spurt that rivaled that of Western Carolina’s Tom Tankelewicz in last week’s 90-81 home loss for the Mocs. The 6-2 junior knocked down six treys in a span of 4:43, leading his team to a 85-61 victory, eclipsing the 1,000-point mark in the process
“We were in good shape,” Chattanooga head coach John Shulman said. “Then it went quick. You’ve got to be able to guard 3-point shooters. This is the fifth or sixth straight game we’ve let a two-star shooter go crazy. We’ve got to find a way. It’s going to be very difficult. Gee McGhee can’t guard three perimeter players.”
But Isenbarger wasn’t the only one working for the Phoenix (12-7, 5-2), which finished 33 of 68 (48.5 percent) from the field in the lopsided victory. Elon’s Lucas Troutman and Ryley Beaumont enjoyed plenty of success as well.
The 6-10 Troutman finished with 18 points, eight rebounds and two assists, while Beaumont added 13 points and four boards.McGhee led the Mocs with 15 points.
“The way our defense was set up, we’d rather not give up layups, and have people shoot 3s over us,” Robertson said. “You’ve got to pick your poison.”
In addition to the team’s lopsided loss on the scoreboard, Chattanooga also seems to have lost point guard Dontay Hampton for the remainder of the season.
At least he seemed to think so.
“As I walked out (on the court) to get him, he said he was done,” Shulman said. “He said ‘I’m finished.’ I’m hoping that he was just scared.”
The 6-1 senior, making his first start of the season with a broken right hand, injured his knee in the closing seconds of the first half; the same knee that underwent summertime ACL surgery. And while nothing’s official, Shulman didn’t seem too optimistic about what it could show.
“We’ll see,” Shulman said. “I don’t feel real good about it, but I’m about sick and tired of ‘Tay having bad luck. … Sometime or another you just have to say enough is enough, and let’s get ‘Tay ready for regular life.”
Hampton was held to just two points in the first half, and freshman point guard Farad Cobb didn’t play a single minute after what Shulman called “a bad week of practice.” Sophomore Ronrico White handled the point for much of the night, finishing with eight points, five rebounds and two assists.
Michael Murphy covers UTC athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelNooga.