The Mocs can book their rooms for the Southern Conference tournament one day earlier than they would have liked.
Appalachian State whipped the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga 86-60 and claimed the final first-round bye for the men's basketball tournament that begins Friday in Asheville, N.C.
UTC's Mocs (13-18, 8-10) could have claimed the bye with a win and a Samford loss Saturday. The latter did happen, in overtime at Western Carolina.
Instead, the Mocs will play Friday in the first round as the No. 7 seed at 6 p.m. in the Asheville Civic Center. Their opponent will be UNC Greensboro, and the winner will play No. 2 seed Elon at 6 p.m. Saturday.
"I don't know if our guys understand what that means," UTC coach John Shulman said on the postgame radio show. "We're so young and inexperienced that this was the first big meaningful game that we've played.
"I'd rather drop the ball today instead of next Friday or Saturday. We dropped the ball today."
ASU forward Jay Canty scored 27 points on 10-of-15 shooting, including two 3-pointers. Senior forward Nathan Healy scored 20 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, and Jamaal Trice added 13 points for the Mountaineers (14-15, 10-8), who will begin their SoCon tournament play Saturday against fifth seed Samford or 12th seed Furman.
UTC freshman Casey Jones set a career high with 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting, and sophomore Ronrico White added 10 points. Junior Zaccheus Mason added nine points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
"They wanted to win this game as much as we wanted to win," Shulman said of the Mountaineers. "This was their senior night, and they had a lot to play for."
ASU played a lot better.
"It's a tough loss," Mason said via cellphone. "It's in the past now, so we have to look forward to the SoCon tournament. I'm upset. We didn't play our best ball, and it showed."
After sparring to a 5-5 tie over the first three minutes, the Mountaineers went on a 27-7 run that spanned nearly eight minutes. In that stretch the hosts scored on 11 of 14 possessions, including five 3-pointers, and grabbed a 32-12 lead.
The Mountaineers led 55-30 at halftime, marking the most points UTC allowed in a single half all season. They shot 18-of-32 from the field and 9-of-16 from the 3-point line in the first 20 minutes.
"They came out and had a lot to prove, and made shots, and we weren't as alert as we needed to be," Shulman said on a shortened postgame show due to the Lady Mocs playing right after the Mocs. "They got happy and we didn't handle things well."
ASU opened the second half with an 11-2 run to more than double-up UTC at 66-32 and eradicate any thoughts of a comeback -- even though UTC rallied from 19 points down with 6:36 to go to beat the Mountaineers in overtime on Jan. 17 in McKenzie Arena.
"We're going to have short memories, learn from it and forget about it," Shulman said. "We'll regroup, and now the new season starts."
It starts Friday.
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