Hiwassee (1-8) at Chattanooga (3-6)
Tuesday, Dec. 10, 7 p.m. ET
McKenzie Arena (10,928) • Chattanooga, Tenn.
Radio: ESPN 105.1 FM
Series record: Chattanooga leads 3-0
Probable Chattanooga starters
G-Greg Pryor, 6-1, 195, FR (10.3 ppg, 3.2 apg, 1.9 rpg)
G-Gee McGhee, 6-4, 205, SO (14.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 2.8 apg)
G-Casey Jones, 6-5, 200, SO (9.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.3 spg)
F-Z. Mason, 6-6, 235, SR (16.1 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 1.8 bpg)
F-Lance Stokes, 6-7, 225, JR (5.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1.4 spg)
Key reserves: Eric Robertson (6-4, 200, SO); Martynas Bareika (6-5, 215, JR); Alex Bran (6-1, 180, SO); T.J. Williams (6-8, 240, FR)
The opening tip
It’s been almost a month since Chattanooga has played on its home court, and the road wasn’t very kind to first-year head coach Will Wade and the Mocs.
UTC struggled to a 1-3 record at the 2013 Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational, which included losses to Nevada (83-81), UCLA (106-65) and Morehead State (88-75), before being blasted by the SEC’s Georgia Bulldogs in Athens, Ga. An 87-76 triumph over IUPUI—the squad’s only Division I win of 2013-14—served as the Mocs’ lone victory during that stretch.
That grueling road swing is behind them now, though, and Chattanooga has had plenty of time to rest and recharge the batteries as it prepares for the remainder of its non-conference slate.
UTC returns to McKenzie Arena to face its third and final non-DI opponent of the season. And if Tuesday plays out anything like the first two, the Mocs are in for a thoroughly one-sided affair. Chattanooga eclipsed the 100-point mark in wins over Covenant and Montreat, rolling to 63- and 57-point victories over the hopelessly outmanned Scots and Cavaliers.
Expect a similar outcome on Tuesday night, but as long as Chattanooga wins, the final score—however lopsided—will be irrelevant. The Mocs could probably play poorer than they did last week at Georgia and still win by 50.
Wade will be more concerned with other things, like hustle, execution and most importantly that “junkyard dog” mentality he often speaks of. It was present earlier in the season, but seems to have been lost somewhere between the flight to UCLA’s Pauly Pavilion and the drive to Georgia’s Stegeman Coliseum.
It needs to return—before the new year.
The Tigers will provide the Mocs with little more than an exhibition game Tuesday, but with road trips to Northern Kentucky and UAB looming, along with games against Grand Canyon and MTSU or Maine at the 2013 Dr. Pepper Classic (Dec. 29-30), they’re sure to to be in several tight games before the start of SoCon play in early January.
“We’re too big of frontrunners. When things are going good we can keep it going. One thing I was happy with early in the year, against Kennesaw and against Radford, was things didn’t go well but we were able to kind of turn it. I thought we had turned the corner on things like that, but we obviously haven’t. We’ve got some guys who, when we get down 15, they don’t believe we’re going to win.”
— Chattanooga head coach Will Wade
Tuesday marks the third meeting between the two schools, with Chattanooga holding a 3-0 series advantage. The first two games in this series were played during the 1945-46 season, with the only other matchup—a 95-41 Mocs victory—coming in 2011-12. ... The Mocs currently lead the Southern Conference in three categories: scoring (82.0 ppg), blocks (4.9 bpg) and steals (9.4 spg)—three cornerstones of the head coach Will Wade’s Chaos system. UTC posted season lows in two of those categories last week at Georgia, though, finishing with 56 points and five steals while committing 13 turnovers. ... Junior Z. Mason leads the SoCon in blocked shots (1.9 bpg), while ranking top 10 in both scoring (16.1 ppg) and rebounding (7.0 rpg).
Michael Murphy covers UTC athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelNooga.