Kennesaw Stae forward Aaron Anderson rejects a layup attempt by UTC forward Drazen Zlovaric in the second half Fridfay night at McKenzie Arena. UTC lost 65-59. Photo by Matt Fields-Johnson
Losses at Indiana and at Butler were understandable and rather expected for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's basketball team.
Losing 65-59 to Kennesaw State in the home opener is not so understandable.
It left coach John Shulman scratching his head about his team that fought neck-and-neck with the two-time national runner-up on Tuesday but looked lost, slow and ineffective in its own McKenzie Arena on Friday.
"We played poorly," said Shulman, who missed Thursday's practice and Friday's shoot-around due to illness.
"Our effort wasn't very good; execution wasn't very good," he continued. "We were a step slow. They outplayed us, outworked us, and we weren't very good."
The Mocs (0-3) had 15 turnovers. They missed layups, bunnies under the basket, and repeatedly let KSU score on layups because they didn't get back to defend. The Owls outscored UTC 18-4 in fastbreak points.
Each of the Mocs made mistakes. Some were more egregious than others, of course, but many seemed due to lack of concentration or lack of effort.
Omar Wattad shot an air ball coming out of a timeout. Dontay Hampton let an easy pass slip through his hands and out of bounds with no pressure on him. Zaccheus Mason failed to convert a three-on-two fast break.
"We did a poor job of communicating; we didn't sprint back; we were just a step behind tonight," senior Ricky Taylor said. "That was not the same team. We fought, battled and competed at Butler. Tonight we let people have their way. That's not Chattanooga basketball. That's unacceptable."
Taylor led UTC with 14 points while Wattad added 12 and Drazen Zlovaric had 11 points and nine rebounds.
Markeith Cummings -- who was suspended for KSU's 68-55 loss at Auburn -- came off the bench to score 21 points and grab eight rebounds for the Owls (1-2). Spencer Dixon added 17 points and six assists. Romain Henry scored 10 points.
"For about 37 of these 40 minutes, we stayed in character," KSU coach Lewis Preston said. "This is a great game for us to build off of."
It's a good game for UTC to build off of as well -- from a different perspective. The Mocs can go over it closely and find something to fix on almost every possession on both ends of the floor.
"We weren't alert, we didn't play very urgent and nobody was talking but the coaches," Shulman said. "We were dead out there. Why? I don't know.
"We got our tail-ends whipped."
The Mocs led 14-5 with former basketball and football player Terrell Owens sitting on the bench. Cummings put KSU ahead 28-27 on a 3-pointer and the Owls never trailed again. They built a 16-point lead with 8:28 to go. UTC scrambled to within four with 1:20 to go, but the rally fell short.
"We were craving a win, and today it came," Dixon said. "We had a feeling before the game that we were going to win. We knew 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 ...