The Mocs made the delay worth the wait.
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga defeated Western Carolina 83-73 on Friday in McKenzie Arena about 24 hours after they were originally scheduled to play.
Sophomore Gee McGhee played his best game of the year in powering UTC to an overall record of 16-11 and 10-2 in the Southern Conference, which all but assures the Mocs of a first-round bye of the SoCon tournament.
"It's a good team win. I'm really proud of our guys and it's the best we've played since Elon," UTC coach Will Wade said. "Glad we're back on track. Now we need to keep it going and keep it building toward next Thursday."
The Mocs had lost three of their last four games heading into Friday, including a 92-85 overtime game at Samford that displeased Wade last Saturday night. He immediately put his team back to work Sunday for a morning video review and an afternoon practice. The tougher-than-normal practices lasted all week.
"It's worth it," McGhee said. "All that hard work is definitely worth winning."
McGhee scored 16 points and grabbed a career-high 15 rebounds. He shot 5-of-11 from the floor and 5-of-6 from the free-throw line. He attacked the rim -- twice going coast-to-coast -- and finished through contact or took a trip to the line for much of his 37 minutes.
"He was able to crash down on the wing," Wade said of McGhee's rebounding. "That led to his offense. He was able to get out in transition and get going."
UTC senior Zaccheus Mason had 23 points and eight rebounds. Casey Jones scored 14 points, including eight on free throws. Ronrico White scored 11 points and Martynas Bareika added 10.
The Catamounts (14-12, 7-4) were led by 21 points from Brandon Boggs and 15 from James Sinclair. UTC's 2-3 zone defense and an off shooting night held leading scorer Trey Sumler to 12 points, six below his season average, and two in the second half.
"This was a big game for them," WCU coach Larry Hunter said. "They were going to be on point."
The Mocs were stifling on the defensive end to start. They held WCU scoreless on 10 straight possessions and went on a 17-0 run that lasted six minutes.
The Catamounts closed the half on a five-minute 14-5 run as Wade had to shuffle his rotation. The Mocs ended the half with Mason, Pryor, Bareika, White and Mason having two fouls each, yet they led 42-38.
Even after all of the defensive stops in the first half, WCU either scored or went to the free-throw line on eight of its last nine possessions of the half after being down by 16 with 7:51 to go before the break.
"When we have Z in foul trouble, we're a different team," Wade said. "They scored on 13 of their last 15 possessions of the first half, and a lot of that is because we didn't have Z down there."
A long defensive stretch of seven straight stops propelled the Mocs to a 16-point lead eight minutes into the second half. But WCU rallied with a 12-0 run and pulled back within 65-61. Mason capped a quick 6-0 run with a follow-up dunk and UTC kept the Cats at bay the rest of the way.
"We were never able to get them under any pressure," Hunter said. "They made a lot more big plays than we did."
Contact David Uchiyama at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6484. Follow him at Twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP
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 ...