The Chattanooga Mocs fell to 1-1 on the season with their 89-78 road loss at Radford on Monday.
Freshman Greg Pryor and sophomore Gee McGhee led UTC with 17 points apiece in the losing effort, while sophomore Eric Robertson contributed 13 points, five rebounds and three steals off the bench.
The early hole Chattanooga (1-1) dug for itself was just too much to overcome, though.
“We never got into rhythm in the first half,” said head coach Will Wade, whose squad faced a 10-1 deficit just over two minutes into the contest. “We were able to get into that rhythm in the second half and played really well, but we didn’t attack enough to score. In the first half, we weren’t able to set up our press, but when we did in the second half, it gave them fits and we were able to come back and really play well.
“We just didn’t get off to a good start.”
Javonte Green’s finished with a double-double (23 points, 12 rebounds) to pace the Highlanders (1-1), who led by as many as 25 in the second half, while teammates Rashun Davis (13) and Ya Ya Anderson (12) also scored in double figures.
Radford, which led from wire to wire, held a double-digit advantage for most of the game, and Jalen Carruthers’ slam dunk with 14:26 left put Radford ahead 61-35. Chattanooga continued to battle, though, as a slow shooting start – less than 30 percent at that point – was pushed aside by the visitors.
The Mocs slowly chipped away at the margin, eventually trimming it to single digits (82-73) on Robertson’s free throw with 1:01 to play, and Bareika’s 3-pointer just seconds later got the deficit back to nine, 85-78, with 41 seconds remaining.
Robertson fouled, sending Radford’s Allen Dickerson to the free-throw line. Dickerson missed both and Pryor raced up the court, finding an open McGhee in the corner, but the 6-foot-5 sophomore’s three-ball rimmed out. The Highlanders made their free throws at the other end, securing the the 89-78 win.
“You’re always playing uphill on the road,” said senior Z. Mason, who finished with seven points and a team-high seven rebounds. “But we fought back because Coach Wade just kept telling us to keep fighting. We cut the lead down to nine at one point, and he kept preaching to keep fighting.
“It’s tough playing on the road anywhere, but we have to fight through that adversity and play hard.”
Chattanooga managed just 36.1 percent (22 of 61) shooting on the night, including 35.7 percent (10 of 28) from 3-point range. Radford enjoyed a much more efficient evening, knocking down over 50 percent from the field (29 of 56) and from beyond the arc (6 of 12).
The most telling stats beyond the shooting numbers came in the post, where the Highlanders held a 42-16 advantage in points in the paint and out-rebounded the Mocs by 11, 45-34.
“It’s a work in progress,” Wade said. “When we get the style of play going like we did for an eight minute stretch in the second half, good things happen … They really stuck with the plan, but we couldn’t seem to get to that plan quick enough. To give our guys credit, they kept their gloves up, kept fighting and taking jabs. We were able to deliver some ourselves.”
The Mocs return to action Saturday at McKenzie Arena, hosting NAIA Montreat (7 p.m.).