Uch's note: We're trying something new today - an online-only, expanded-edition, extra-special addition to our daily UTC basketball coverage for when the Mocs are on the road.
We'll see how it goes - give us feedback - and we may expand it to home games as well. Or we'll nix it just let me sleep in a bit longer.
- David Uchiyama
The opening tip
STATESBORO, Ga. - The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga has been known to let opponents have record-breaking nights from 3-point distance.
Georgia Southern guard Jelani Hewitt added his name to the list with a career-high six 3-pointers Thursday in an 84-76 win over UTC.
He helped the Eagles hit 11 of 23 from the arc, which equates to 47.6 percent. Yikes. Some teams would have a hard time hitting at that clip without any defense.
The Eagles did it differently than most.
Usually, record-setting shooting nights come when the Mocs play their "Fire" defense. That's a double-team on the post; with one or two passes an opponent can have a wide-open look from outside.
But UTC did not "Fire" except on two occasions early in Thursday's game.
The Eagles earned their open looks with basic basketball - drive and dish. One guard drove to the lane, a UTC defender left his man to help (sound defensive philosophy) and the guard found a teammate open and bang. Three points for GSU.
The Eagles had 20 assists on 31 field goals. Willie Powers, who missed all of last year and most of the season before that with knee injuries, drove-and-dished for six assists just like teammate Ben Drayton.
Stoked about Stokes
UTC freshman wing Lance Stokes missed more than a week of practice because of a sprained left ankle. He returned Monday and went through all he drills Wednesday.
Then on Thursday, he played well in the closing moments. And he did so while playing the power-forward position.
He scored eight points in the final three minutes, and each of them were earned on drives to the basket. It must also be noted that GSU led by 15 after an Eric Ferguson alley-oop before Stokes started scoring. He finished with those eight points and one turnover in just six minutes.
Coach John Shulman praised Stokes after the game and said he was one of the bright spots of the game.
The Mocs were credited with nine assists on their 29 baskets. Point guard Keegan Bell had two, according to the stats, but he said he could count of at least six in his head.
Shulman didn't care about the number of assists but said Bell did a good job of running the basketball team.
1. UTC needed this win. Starting 0-1 in the SoCon is not good.
Plus, this magnifies Saturday's game at the College of Charleston. An 0-2 conference start would be rough and it's not a number that can change until Jan. 5, when the Mocs start a three-game homestand against SoCon foes.
2. Georgia Southern is on the rise. Charlton Young, who was the associate head coach when the Mocs won the SoCon in 2005, has probably the most athletic team in the league. It's a young squad welcoming back a veteran leader in Willie Powers. Young keeps things simple on offense and lets the players play.
3. Eric Ferguson, the Eagles' sophomore wing, is a stud-in-the-making. He's added about 20 pounds to his 6-foot-7 frame from last year. He can shoot, he's got a few post moves, he snatches rebounds, he can defend better than most and he's not close to reaching his potential.
The open floor
Q: What's the current perception of losing to Georgia Southern?
Uch's answer: It's bad. The Eagles have been down since former coach Jeff Price left the program in trouble with the NCAA for academic infractions. GSU won one SoCon game last year. It beat The Citadel. And that's it. The Eagles are improved this year, but UTC had won the last nine matchups - although two were "vacated wins" as NCAA punishment.
Your answer: ............