Chattanooga (13-17, 8-9) at Appalachian State (13-15, 9-8)
Saturday, March 2, 2 p.m. ET
Holmes Convocation Center (8,325) . Boone, N.C.
Radio: ESPN 105.1 FM
Series Record: Chattanooga leads 43-30
Probable Chattanooga Starters
G-Casey Jones, 6-5, 185, FR (4.1 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 1.2 apg)
F-Z. Mason, 6-5, 238, JR (14.9 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 0.9 bpg)
C-Drazen Zlovaric, 6-9, 220, SR (8.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg, .505 FG%)
G-Ronrico White, 6-3, 170, SO (9.9 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.0 apg, 1.0 spg)
G-Gee McGhee, 6-5, 200, FR (12.4 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.4 apg, 1.4 spg)
Key reserves: Lance Stokes (6-6, 217, SO); Eric Robertson (6-4, 191, FR); Jared Bryant (6-7, 240, SO); Martynas Bareika (6-4, 208, SO).
Probable Appalachian State Starters
F-Jay Canty, 6-6, 200, SO (13.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 2.9 apg)
F-Nathan Healy, 6-7, 210, SR (14.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 1.9 spg, .398 3P%)
F-Michael Obacha, 6-8, 215, FR (5.2 ppg, 4.7 rpg, .553 FG%)
G-Chris Burgess, 5-8, 175, FR (3.1 ppg, 1.6 apg, 1.0 rpg)
G-Tab Hamilton, 6-3, 180, SO (9.5 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.0 apg)
Key reserves: Tevin Baskin (6-6, 210, JR); Jamaal Trice (6-6, 220, SR); Mike Neal (6-2, 185, SO)
The opening tip
Everything worked out for Chattanooga on Thursday evening, as the Mocs took down Western Carolina, while Samford suffered a 70-67 double-overtime defeat to Appalachian State. UTC still has hope of capturing the fourth and final first-round bye at next week’s Southern Conference Tournament in Asheville, N.C., but so does its upcoming opponent.
In fact, the Mountaineers control their own destiny, while the Mocs will need some additional help-a Samford loss at Western Carolina on Saturday. If Appalachian State wins Saturday, it will be awarded the bye.
That’s not all the Mountaineers will be playing for this weekend, though. They’ll also be looking to get a little payback for last month’s 91-88 loss at McKenzie Arena, when App State squandered a 19-point second-half advantage before falling to the Mocs in overtime.
The embarrassing late-game meltdown could provide the Mountaineers with a little extra motivation, but that’s irrelevant to head coach John Shulman. In his eyes, Saturday’s outcome will come down to his team’s energy level, and since freshman Casey Jones’ return to the starting lineup, UTC hasn’t had a problem in that department.
If the Mocs bring the same kind of intensity they did in Thursday’s 81-72 win over the Catamounts, opening the game with a 12-0 run, they shouldn’t have a problem on Saturday. If they sleepwalk their way through the game’s first 33 minutes, like in their first meeting with the Mountaineers, it could be a long day.
Shulman on Saturday’s regular-season finale: “We’re not talking about the bye; we’re not talking about the must-win. We’re not talking about any of that. We’re talking about playing harder, more passionate, more emotional and more enthusiastic than Appalachian. If we can do that, we can find success.”
Saturday will be the 74th meeting between the two schools. Chattanooga holds a 43-30 series advantage, but the Mocs have suffered six straight road losses to the Mountaineers. There last win in Boone was over five years ago. The teams are knotted up at 4-4 in their last eight meetings. … UTC junior Z. Mason notched his third 20-point, 10-rebound performance of the season Thursday. The 6-5 forward finished with 25 points and a career-high 14 rebounds-his fifth double-double on the year-and he also set career highs for free-throws made (11) and attempted (14). Mason is fifth in the SoCon in scoring (14.9 ppg) and fourth in rebounding (7.5 rpg). … Coach Jason Capel has compiled a 42-48 record in three seasons at Appalachian State. He’s 26-27 in SoCon play and 2-3 against Chattanooga in his career. … Mountaineers senior Nathan Healy is the leagues No. 10 leading scorer (14.4 ppg); he’s third in rebounding (7.6 rpg), steals (1.9 spg) and third in blocked shots (1.4 bpg).
Michael Murphy covers UTC athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelNooga.