Thursday evening was meant to be Chattanooga radio announcer Jim Reynolds’ night, as the McKenzie Arena crowd celebrated the Voice of the Mocs' 1,000th game called for UTC.
Instead, the evening belonged to UNC Greensboro’s Nicholas Paulos.
“I was feeling it; that’s a good way to put it,” Paulos said.
Reynolds stood at mid-court with his family during the halftime intermission, and was recognized for his 33 seasons of service. Just minutes, Paulos put on a shooting clinic, sinking six treys and scoring 18 straight points for his club.
“Paulos had actually been struggling shooting the ball lately,” Mocs coach John Shulman said. “He shot the ball really good early, and hasn’t shot it well lately. They lost three in a row coming in here. They were below us in the league standings. Give them credit.”
The 6-7 forward broke out of his recent rough patch, finishing with a career-high 30 points off the bench for the visiting Spartans, and he knocked down 10 of 12 from beyond the arc in his team’s 94-68 victory.
If a 26-point loss wasn't painful enough, there's even more bad news for the Mocs. Freshman point guard Farad Cobb was dismissed from the team earlier this week, Shulman confirmed after, and though he'll remain at the school the semester, Cobb's playing days at UTC are over.
Cobb's absence certainly didn't help Chattanooga's chances on Thursday, but Shulman stressed that it had nothing to do with the lopsided loss.
“That was a shell-shocking out there tonight,” Shulman said. “I don’t know at times what else we could have done. Maybe we helped in a little too much at times, but they made pretty tough shots.”
But Paulos’ hot hand was just part of the problem for the Mocs (11-17, 6-9 Southern Conference).
Fluid ball movement, precision passing, along with the sophomore’s lights-out shooting, led the Spartans to their best offensive showing of the season, and, consequently, UTC’s worst of the year at the defensive end.
UNCG shot 34 of 70 (48.6 percent) from the floor, knocked down 55.6 percent from 3-point range, and had five players finish in double-figures. The Spartans actually had more 3-pointers (20) than Chattanooga had field goals (19).
“Obviously we shot the ball really well, and guys, when you shoot the ball well it really helps,” Greensboro coach Wes Miller said. “It makes it look like I can coach, and I really didn’t have a lot to do with that. What I am proud of more than the made shots is the way we shared the basketball.”
The Spartans dished out a season-high 27 assists, and tied its season low with just six turnovers.
The Mocs shot 1 of 9 to start the game, and made just a one basket during an eight-minute stretch midway through the first half—a 3-pointer from freshman point guard Alex Bran. UNCG buried seven 3-pointers in the final 7:18 of the opening period, heading into the visiting locker room with an 18-point advantage.
Junior Z. Mason scored a team-high 21 for Chattanooga, freshman Gee McGee added 13 and sophomore Ronrico White added a dozen. Half of the trio’s 46 combined points came from the free-throw line, though.
“We guarded,” Miller said. “We weren’t perfect, but at least we were into it defensively. That’s really something this team has to do. We’re undersized; we’re small, and we’ve got to be able to have great defensive energy and great ball pursuit every night to make up for our lack of size.”
Korey Van Dussen finished with 11 for Greensboro (8-18, 6-9), while David Williams, Kelvin McNeil, and Trevis Simpson each chipped in 10. Simpson, who scored a career-high 41 points in last month’s home win over the Mocs, shot 3-for-14.
"It's gut check time; it's very simple," Shulman said. "You're tired, you're cranky, it's been a long season, you've had adversity after adversity after adversity; what you got? Most people quit before they fail. I don't think this team will. I'd be disappointed if they did. They haven't yet."
Michael Murphy covers UTC athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelNooga.