Playing without their leading scorer and rebounder, the Chattanooga Mocs fell to 4-7 on the season with Sunday’s 87-71 loss to at Northern Kentucky.
Junior forward Martynas Bareika enjoyed a career afternoon, finishing with 29 points on 7 of 14 shooting, including three makes from beyond the arc, but the Mocs were at a serious disadvantage down low without the squad’s only senior, 6-foot-6 Z. Mason, who missed Sunday’s game with a foot injury.
“We are shorthanded on the rebounding end without Z,” said sophomore Casey Jones, who finished with 10 points. “I work hard for the rebound, but not having Z made a difference. We didn’t have a post presence on the offensive end whatsoever.”
“I am a mismatch for them," Bareika added, "And Z would have really helped us out. But we can’t complain that he isn’t here. It’s no excuse to lose a game if Z can’t play.”
The Norse, who held a 33-22 advantage on the glass while outscoring the Mocs 44 to 18 in the paint, found themselves in front by three at the break, but it wasn’t until the second half—specifically a 25-7 NKU run—when things really got one-sided.
Jordan Jackson scored a team-high 16 points for Northern Kentucky (2-8), but he was just one of six Norse players to finish in double figures. Anthony Monaco and Jalen Billups contributed 12 apiece, while Dean Danos, Jake Giesler and Tyler White each added 10.
NKU shot 32 of 48 (66.6 percent) from the field, including 7 of 12 (58.3 percent) from 3-point range.
“They just stirred our defense up and drove on us at will to the basket,” UTC head coach Will Wade said. “They did a good job driving us. They were quicker than us and really took us off the bounce. They spread us out, drove us and shot a high percentage against us.”
UTC’s scoring wasn’t nearly as balanced as its opponent’s. It was much more one-dimensional as well. Nearly 40 percent of the team's points—a dozen by Bareika alone—came at the free-throw line.
And while knocking down over 96 percent (28 of 29) from the stripe was a huge plus for the Mocs, it wasn’t enough to overcome their shooting woes from elsewhere on the court. They finished 11 of 25 (44 percent) inside the arc, and just 7 of 25 (28 percent) from beyond it.
“Rebounding was a concern coming into the game without Z., and we lost pretty heavily in rebounding,” Wade said. “I think 71 points should be enough to win a lot of games, but we just couldn’t get stops.”
The Mocs, who fell to 1-7 against Division I opponents on the season with Sunday's loss, return to action Wednesday at UAB. Tip off is set for 8 p.m. at the Blazers’ Bartow Arena.
Michael Murphy covers UTC athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelNooga.