Ronrico White held court in the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga locker room for a moment after the Mocs' 68-61 win Friday night against High Point.
He quieted the celebration.
"I said, 'You see how this feels. Let's try and do it every night,'" said White, who played all three perimeter positions and set a career high with 21 points.
"Everybody has to step up," said White, who started at small forward. "If we win, it's going to be a team effort and not just one person."
And the wins are going to have to be ugly like Friday's before an announced crowd of 2,568 on the first night of the Dr Pepper Classic.
The Mocs (4-8) shot 41.8 percent from the floor, including 2-of-21 from the 3-point line. They were out-rebounded 45-32 yet never relinquished the lead in the final seven minutes.
They played a variety of defenses including 1-3-1 and 2-3 zones, some full-court trapping and base man-to-man. They'll have to keep doing that with Dontay Hampton and Lance Stokes out a few more weeks, and Casey Jones is out at least the next six weeks with a broken tibia near his right knee.
"We're going to have to be very creative," coach John Shulman said. "We're going to have to keep people off balance. We went zone late, and I thought it really helped us. We have to get better at a variety of things."
The victory Friday sets up a rematch of last year's championship game against Utah Valley University, which beat Austin Peay 84-77. UTC beat the Wolverines 74-59 a year ago.
"I know they're big and physical, and I know the coach's son likes to come here and get his game off," Shulman said of Holton Hunsaker, who had 21 points in Friday's first game.
White played his best game of the season after starting at the wing position where he spent all of last year. It's a change from spending most of his time this season playing point guard. He shot 5-of-10 from the floor and hit UTC's only 3s of the game. He also went 9-of-11 from the free-throw line, including 5-of-5 in the final five minutes.
The Mocs were 0-for-19 from the arc until White gave them a 52-50 lead with a 3-pointer from the left wing with 7:22 to go. He connected on a four-point play with 4:37 left, putting UTC up 58-52.
"I think it was very comfortable to me," White said. "I had some wide-open looks in the first half. Then a last-second [on the shot clock] shot and four-point play are the 3s that go in."
"We're hungry," said junior Zaccheus Mason, who had 15 points and nine rebounds. "We want to continue to play hard and string some wins together."
UTC led for most of the first half but relinquished the advantage with 5:31 to go before the break on a jump shot by John Brown, who had 23 points and 16 rebounds. The Panthers made their lead 30-26 before taking a 32-30 edge into the locker room.
The teams combined to shoot 24-of-62 (38.7 percent) from the floor and were a combined 0-for-21 from the 3-point line in the first half.
"We're going to have to live with some goofy things going on out there," Shulman said. "That's what happens when you have freshmen out there."
UTC opened the second half with an 11-0 run, forcing the Panthers into five turnovers in their first seven possessions after the break. High Point coach Scott Cherry called time out in the middle of the run, but it did little to slow UTC, which led 41-32 four minutes into the second half.
High Point responded with a 14-2 spurt -- including two 3s by Devante Wallace, who had 13 points -- that gave the Panthers a 46-43 lead with 10:43 to play.
The Mocs regained the edge but Brown tied the score at 50 with 6:02 to go. Mason scored on a jumper, and then White made his four-point play and the Mocs sank 11 of their last 13 free throws.
"It was nice to see our kids happy and excited after the game," Shulman said. "After blowing a lead to start the second half, I didn't know if I'd be in a good mood or not."
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 ...