published Monday, December 3rd, 2012

Youth a drag on Mocs basketball; UTC stuck behind top SoCon teams

  • photo
    Davidson's Jake Cohen (15) blocks a shot by UTC's Ronrico White (11) during the game held at McKenzie Arena in Chattanooga Saturday night.
    Photo by Alyson Wright /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The Las Vegas line-setters had Davidson as a 13-point favorite at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga on the Mocs' home floor Saturday night.

The final difference turned out to be double the prediction -- 81-55. And it could have been more than 26 points if the Wildcats really wanted to stomp the Mocs in the final minutes.

"At this moment, the programs, at this second? Yeah, [it's an indication] of a difference," UTC coach John Shulman said. "We have a bunch of young guys and they have a bunch of old guys."

Last season, the best Southern Conference record belonged to the Wildcats at 16-2 while the senior-laden Mocs floundered to a 6-12 mark.

Three days after the Mocs were bounced in the opening round of the SoCon tournament, Davidson won the event and went on to scare fourth-seeded Louisville in the NCAA tournament.

The Wildcats (4-3, 1-0) returned their top eight players for this season and were the consensus pick among coaches, SoCon media and national media to repeat as league champions. They gave New Mexico a fight in The Pit, beat Vanderbilt and West Virginia in the Old Spice Classic and played No. 12 Gonzaga in the championship game.

Davidson clearly was the best team on the floor Saturday night and may be the best team in the Carolinas, Tennessee and Georgia except for ranked Atlantic Coast Conference powers Duke, North Carolina and N.C. State .

"I didn't want to make a big deal out of Davidson because could it could have been worse," Shulman said. "Our young guys got taught a lesson. You can't get better unless you get taught. We got taught."

In fact, as Shulman said, the Mocs were embarrassed in front of an announced crowd of 3,033 that departed McKenzie Arena at various points of the second half.

The loudest cheers of the evening, after the Lady Mocs rolled Furman by 43 points, came at halftime for the trampoline-bouncing AirElite dunkers from Atlanta.

"We were stunned, and I knew we'd be stunned," Shulman said. "We got an old tail-kicking."

Offensive execution exposed the difference between the best in the SoCon and a program that often had that title in the past.

Davidson had 21 assists on 27 field goals and shot 46.6 percent from the field with just nine turnovers. The Cats were 14-of-29 on 3-pointers.

UTC had nine assists on 15 field goals and shot 30 percent from the floor. The Mocs shot 35 free throws on 22 Davidson fouls, which typically would be a positive stat for UTC. But they hit only 22 of those freebies (62.9 percent) and only three of their 12 3s.

"I was delighted, thrilled and pleased with the poise we had with the basketball tonight," Davidson coach Bob McKillop said. "I thought we were superb in moving the basketball. When you have 21 assists on 27 baskets, that's a great statement."

Another statement is opening the SoCon season with a 26-point win. But McKillop, who has won 12 of his last 13 games against UTC, foresees UTC closing the gap over the course of this season.

"The last time he went to the NCAA tournament, they struggled part of that year and got better as the season progressed," McKillop said. "The people of Chattanooga should understand that John Shulman bleeds Chattanooga. I know the way he prepares. His teams are a difficult preparation for us.

"They are going to get better."

McKillop and Shulman likely will not see each other until the SoCon tournament at the earliest. This was their only scheduled game of the season.

And Davidson dominated.

"They're the biggest and baddest, and the best," Shulman said. "That's what we're trying to get to."

about David Uchiyama...

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 ...

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