It’s no secret that the Southern Conference’s most prolific scorers have presented Chattanooga with problems this season, and Saturday at Wofford was no exception.
Sophomore guard Karl Cochran made sure of it.
The 6-1 guard from Marietta, Ga., knocked down four of his team’s eight 3-pointers—some contested, some not—and the reigning SoCon Freshman of the Year, finished with a career-high 30 points in his team's lopsided victory.
“Cochran was their only guy; we talked about it,” UTC head coach John Shulman said. “I don’t know if our guys didn’t think he was going to shoot it, but we made it plain and simple. We just weren’t alert enough to make him take tough shots.”
Wofford, last in the league in scoring offense (58.6 ppg), more than doubled its scoring production from the team's 40-33 loss at Samford two days earlier.
Cochran, the SoCon’s third-leading scorer (15.7 ppg), had failed to reach the 20-point plateau in a game since Jan. 12, but that's how many he had at intermission in the Terriers’ 78-58 victory over the Mocs.
“I guess tonight was really his night,” UTC freshman Gee McGhee said.
It felt a little too familiar, though.
It was the kind of night Western Carolina’s Trey Sumler and UNCG’s Trevis Simpson enjoyed earlier this season.
Sumler, the SoCon’s second-leading scorer (18.1 ppg), dropped 27 in the Catamounts’ 90-81 win at McKenzie Arena on Jan. 19, and Simpson, the league’s top scorer (19.4 ppg), scorched the Mocs even worse eight days later, racking up a career-best 41 points in the Spartans’ 77-69 win.
A lack of confidence early in games—”playing on our heels”— is one thing Shulman attributes to his team’s defensive struggles. On Saturday, though, a lack of energy had to play a role.
“Maybe fatigue set in on us,” said UTC junior Z. Mason, who scored a team-high 24 points in the losing effort. “I know both teams had played five games in 10 days, so who knows? A lot of things contributed to it, but we just have to learn from it and get better. The season’s not over.”
One thing is certain: The Mocs need to figure it out quickly, or history is bound to repeat itself when Simpson and the Spartans roll into the Scenic City on Thursday night
“You’ve got another Cochran coming in Thursday in Trevis Simpson; two very similar guys,” Shulman said. “I’ll say this, the most important thing we need is to get home and get some rest. I know the way we’ve been playing—94 feet, trapping and pressing—is probably more fatiguing, and this has been a long stretch with not a lot of rest and not a lot of preparation time.”
Chattanooga didn’t practice Sunday, and the squad enjoys its second straight day off Monday before it returning to work Tuesday.
Michael Murphy covers UTC athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelNooga.