Redshirt freshman guard Martynas Barieka had played in just nine of 27 games this season before Wednesday.
He played a career-high 16 minutes in the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's 79-70 Southern Conference basketball loss at Appalachian State.
Barieka played the final 16 along with other reserves, while the starters -- four seniors and a junior -- watched from the best seats in the Holmes Convocation Center after they fell 22 points behind the mediocre Mountaineers (11-15, 7-9 SoCon).
They were essentially told to take a seat, watch the youngsters and learn a lesson about playing with heart, energy and passion.
"I don't think I was telling them something. I think the other guys were," Mocs coach John Shulman said. "I wasn't trying to send a message. I was trying to win a game. We were down 22. That clearly was not working.
"Whatever message was out there to get, hopefully they got it. But that wasn't the point."
Senior point guard Keegan Bell had played at least 25 minutes in every game this season. He was benched after logging 21 minutes -- more than any other starter.
Bell, Ricky Taylor, Omar Wattad, Jahmal Burroughs and Drazen Zlovaric -- supposedly the Mocs' best lineup -- were reduced to the role of supportive teammates.
They encouraged their understudies as they eliminated the appearance of an embarrassing loss.
"It wasn't the starters that got us back in it, it was the other guys," Shulman said. "They played hard. They competed and battled."
Freshman guard Ronrico White and junior reserve Dontay Hampton took full advantage of the opportunity of extended minutes. Hampton set a career high with 17 points before receiving medical attention in the locker room after the game.
White scored a career-high 16 points, making eight of 10 free throws. Fellow freshman Jared Bryant scored seven points and snagged seven rebounds in 20 minutes.
"It was just shocking that I didn't come out," Bryant said. "That was the one thing I was surprised about. It was really odd. It was shocking that he didn't put the starters back in when we got within 12."
UTC fell to 10-18 overall, 4-11 in the conference. One win for Samford or Appalachian State eliminates the possibility of the Mocs finishing third in the North Division, which they were predicted to win. A win for both ASU and Samford will leave UTC fifth.
UTC will need to win four games in four days to win the SoCon tournament. The experience gained Wednesday could help the needed depth in that cause.
"This is an experience for us to know that we can do it," White said. "We'll be able step in and do it without hesitation."
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 ...