No. 7 Chattanooga (13-18) vs. No. 10 UNC Greensboro (8-21)
Friday, March 8, 6 p.m. ET
U.S. Cellular Center (7,200) • Asheville, N.C.
Radio: ESPN 105.1 FM
Series Record: Chattanooga leads, 18-14
Probable Chattanooga Starters
G-Casey Jones, 6-5, 185, FR (5.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg)
F-Z. Mason, 6-5, 238, JR (14.7 ppg, 7.6 rpg, .488 FG%)
C-Drazen Zlovaric, 6-9, 220, SR (8.2 ppg, 4.7 rpg, .498 FG%)
G-Ronrico White, 6-3, 170, SO (9.9 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.0 apg)
G-Gee McGhee, 6-5, 200, FR (12.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.4 apg, 1.3 spg)
Key reserves: Lance Stokes (6-6, 217, SO); Martynas Bareika (6-4, 208, SO); Sam Watson (6-7, 245, JR); Eric Robertson (6-4, 191, FR); Alex Bran (6-1, 170, FR).
Probable UNCG Starters
G-Trevis Simpson, 6-4, 185, JR (18.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1.3 apg, .413 FG%)
F-David Williams, 6-6, 205, JR (5.2 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 1.7 spg)
F-Kayel Locke, 6-5, 240, FR (10.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg, .428 FG%)
G-Drew Parker, 6-1, 178, JR (3.5 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 2.7 apg)
G-Derrell Armstrong, 6-1, 205, SR (14.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.2 apg)
Key reserves: Kelvin McNeil (6-8, 230, SR); Nicholas Paulos (6-7, 185, SO); Jordan Potts (5-11, 170, FR)
The opening tip
With their up-and-down regular season behind them, the Mocs turn their attention to this weekend’s Southern Conference Tournament in Asheville, N.C. Waiting for them in the opening round is UNC Greensboro, the only SoCon North squad to sweep Chattanooga this season.
The Spartans, propelled by junior Trevis Simpson’s career-best 41 points, captured a 77-69 win over Chattanooga at Greensboro Coliseum on Jan. 27. Less than a month later, sophomore Nicholas Paulos blistered the Mocs for a career-high 30 points—10 3-pointers—and UNCG rolled to a 94-68 rout at McKenzie Arena.
If there’s anything positive Chattanooga coach John Shulman can take from the challenging first-round matchup, it’s that his team certainly won’t be overlooking the Spartans, especially after the last meeting.
The Mocs gave up a season-high 94 points, and allowed UNCG to shoot 20-of-36 (55.6 percent) from 3-point range. The Spartans also dished out a season-high 27 turnovers, while committing just six turnovers.
In their two games against Chattanooga, UNCG has shot a combined 44 percent from the field and 46 percent from beyond the arc.
The Spartans haven’t been near as good against the rest of the conference, though. At 6-12 in league play, they’re dead last in the SoCon North, and enter the tournament with the No. 10 seed. They’ve dropped six of their last seven, and concluded the regular season with losses to Samford (75-51), Georgia Southern (66-60) and Elon (80-66).
Chattanooga isn’t bringing much momentum into the tournament, either.
The Mocs strung together wins over Elon and Western Carolina, keeping their first-round bye hopes alive, before being scorched by Appalachian State in both teams’ regular-season finale.
Chattanooga junior Z. Mason on the upcoming SoCon tournament: “It’s a great opportunity for us as a team to go out and show our ability; show what we can truly do. We’ve shown sparks of it throughout the season, but hopefully we can just put it all together for this run and show everybody what kind of team we really are.”
Chattanooga is 18-14 all-time against UNCG, 14-12 in SoCon regular-season meetings and 2-2 in tournament play. The Mocs won the last postseason meeting between the two schools, capturing a 66-62 victory in the 2005 title game. ... UTC is 52-25 (.675) in the SoCon Tournament with 10 championships. The Mocs are 8-1 at home, 44-21 at neutral sites. They're 21-9 (.700) with four tournament titles in Asheville. ... Chattanooga leads the SoCon in rebounding (38.0 rpg) and offensive rebound percentage (.356 percent), while ranking second in rebounding margin (+4.5) and defensive rebound percentage (.726 percent). ... UTC freshman Gee McGhee’s string of double-digit scoring performances was snapped last Saturday at Appalachian State. McGhee had reached double figures in 12 straight games, but was held to nine points in the 86-60 defeat. Freshman Casey Jones scored a season-high 16 points in the loss to the Mountaineers. ... Coach Wes Miller is 19-32 in his second season in Greensboro, and he’s a perfect 4-0 against Chattanooga. ... UNCG is shooting 41.9 percent from the field, 33.6 percent from 3-point range and 68.1 percent from the free-throw line. The Spartans are third in the SoCon in scoring offense (71.5 ppg), but rank last in scoring defense (73.7 ppg).
Michael Murphy covers UTC athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelNooga.