LEXINGTON, Ky. -- The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's basketball team has taken its share of blows this season.
Some have been low, some have been from within the team, and No. 3 Kentucky delivered another in the opening minutes of an 87-62 whipping of the Mocs on Saturday night.
But the Mocs fought back.
They played with the passion, energy and enthusiasm that has been lacking at times this season. They knew they were going to lose, but they fought in doing so.
"We're showing some resiliency that we have some life in us," coach John Shulman said. "We've been through a lot of adversity, more than we needed to be through. I'm not going to be shocked if we get through all this mess and come back after Christmas and be a pretty good basketball team."
Forward Drazen Zlovaric led the Mocs with a career-high 15 points. Ricky Taylor added 11 points after graduating Saturday morning and having graduate assistant Jonathan Adams drive him to Lexington in less than four hours.
Doron Lamb led UK with 24 points. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scored 17 points and had eight rebounds. Anthony Davis had 14 points and 18 rebounds for the Southeastern Conference power.
"That's Kentucky being Kentucky," Taylor said. "I still feel we got better. We made strides. [Zaccheus] Mason rebounded like I've never seen before, and I'm proud of Drazen for being a man."
The Mocs' front-line rotation of Zlovaric, Mason and Jahmal Burroughs all played their best games of the season against the best team they'll face this season.
UTC played without starting power forward Chris Early, who has been suspended indefinitely for posting inappropriate comments on Twitter in November that appeared on Friday.
"The right hook we took yesterday afternoon, for Jahmal and Z to step in and do what they did, I commend both of them," Shulman said. "Z had eight [points] and eight [rebounds.] He didn't have eight and eight against [NCAA Division III team] Spalding."
The Mocs played their defense and ran their typical sets. They double-teamed the post, forcing 13 turnovers and stifling the Kentucky front line in the first half.
"What was our other choice?" Shulman said. "They didn't want any part of our doubles in the first half. Then they spaced it out in the second half."
Kentucky, which lost on a last-second buzzer beater at rival Indiana in its last game, opened with a flurry -- a team "out for blood," Shulman said.
Just 12 seconds into the game, Kidd-Gilchrist tossed an alley-oop to Davis as the Cats rolled out to a 13-0 lead.
"I looked at [assistant] Ricky Cabrera and said, 'I don't know what to do,'" Shulman said. "He looked back and said, 'We're playing against five NBA players. It's OK.'"
UTC played Kentucky within three points for the rest of the half.
The Mocs survived the opening minutes of the second half by scoring on five of six possessions, but the Cats scored on seven straight trips and led by 19 points five minutes into the half.
An 8-0 run by Kentucky followed, bringing those in Rupp Arena to their feet after Shulman called time out. The run continued as UK scored on 13 of its first 15 possessions of the half, giving it a 72-45 lead with 11 minutes to play.
UTC will take today off an next plays Wednesday at noon against Hiwassee. There may be plans in the works for a fun evening at the Shulman residence tonight.
"We got beat worse at Austin Peay last year than we got beat tonight," Shulman said. "I see signs of hey, we're OK. It's not where we want. We're going to get through it."
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...