Chattanooga’s Will Wade was nowhere near pleased after last week’s lopsided loss at Georgia. It paled in comparison to how he felt early on in Tuesday night’s game against Hiwassee College, a 1-8 National Christian Collegiate Athletic Association school.
The Mocs (4-6), returning to the court for the first time in six days, were a little rusty, and understandably so. The situation they found themselves in late in the first half, though-trailing the visiting Tigers by six points-was utterly incomprehensible, though.
By the time the under-eight media timeout rolled around following an offensive rebound and putback by Hiwassee’s Jeff Golden with 7:04 left in the first, he’d seen enough.
The first-year coach absolutely lit into his team.
“Basically he was just mad at the effort,” sophomore Casey Jones said. “The effort was not good at all. That play we gave up, a free-throw box out and they got the rebound. We talk about it all the time and coach just blew up.”
“I know at one point I think I had one or two boards,” added senior Z. Mason. “That timeout when coach kind of blew up, he got onto me as well.”
That timeout didn’t immediately do the trick-the Mocs didn’t quite turn things around until around the three-minute mark of the first half. That’s when Mason and Jones really took over, spearheading a 9-0 spurt to close out the first half, and Chattanooga carried that momentum into the second half, opening the period with a 16-5 run before ultimately rolling to an 86-68 win over the outmanned Tigers.
“The guys who work hard and the guys who work extra, they’re the guys that play really well,” Wade said. “If you want to know who works hard, look at the minutes of guys who played and who played well tonight.”
Mason posted a very impressive double-double Tuesday, pouring in a career-high 41 points on 16 of 20 shooting while tying a career best with 12 rebounds. He played 32 minutes. Jones finished with 17 points and seven rebounds-five on the offensive glass-in 24 minutes of action.
“Those two played within themselves, and they played well,” Wade said. “I’m not sure their effort was that much better than anyone else’s, I’m not sure it was effort issue tonight as much as it was being sharp, being on edge, being mentally where we’re supposed to be.
“Outside of Z. and Casey, I’m hard-pressed to find a lot of positives.”
Other than Ronrico White making his season debut after offseason hip surgery, there weren’t many.
The Mocs committed seven turnovers in the first seven minutes of action Tuesday. They started the game 0-for-6 from the free-throw line and the squad’s bench was outscored 20-0 in the first half.
Junior Martynas Bareika was the third Mocs in double figures, adding 10 points on 4 of 10 shooting. Freshman Anthanee Doyle chipped in nine points, two rebounds and an assist. Sophomore Gee McGhee was held scoreless for the first time in his career,
Sophomore Howie Meadows paced the Tigers with 26 points off the bench, knocking down 8 of 12 from 3-point range. Hiwassee’s Justin Browner finished with 13 points and five rebounds in the losing effort.
After the brief return to the Roundhouse, Chattanooga hits the road for Highland Heights, Ky., this weekend, where they’ll take on the Northern Kentucky Norse. Tipoff is set for noon on Sunday at the Bank of Kentucky Center.
Michael Murphy covers UTC athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelNooga.