UTC Mocs earn Dr Pepper title

UTC Mocs earn Dr Pepper title

December 31st, 2011 by David Uchiyama in Sports - College

UTC's Omar Wattad scores against Jordy Hart during the UTC Mocs' game against Utah Valley in the Dr. Pepper classic at McKenzie Arena in Chattanooga on Friday.

Photo by Alex Washburn/Times Free Press.

Omar Wattad gave his Dr Pepper Classic all-tournament plaque to his mother. Keegan Bell handed his tournament MVP plaque to his mom for safe keeping.

And coach John Shulman's son, Max, carried the championship trophy off the floor following the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's 74-59 win over Utah Valley on Friday night in McKenzie Arena.

"The trophy is what it's all about," Bell said. "We wanted to win it especially after last year -- coming up short. This was a good test for us, and the fact we passed is positive for us."

Bell earned the MVP honor after getting 16 assists and 10 points on Thursday and coming back with 15 points and seven assists Friday.

Wattad, who led UTC with 19 points Friday, and Drazen Zlovaric also represented UTC on the all-tournament team. Darrion Pellum of Hampton, Antwan Carter of Longwood and Geddes Robinson of Utah Valley rounded out the team.

"It felt good to hit shots," said Wattad, who went 7-of-11 from the floor. "I've always said I'm confident in my shot. Keegan and other guys found me. It was fun out there."

The Mocs (6-8) have won three games in a row and earned back-to-back wins against Division I teams for the first time this season.

"The best thing about this team is that we stick together," Wattad said. "It's a matter of time before the bad bounces become good bounces."

Almost everything bounced the Mocs' way early on against the Wolverines (7-9), who play in the Great West Conference and were led by 21 points from Holton Hunsaker.

The Mocs made their first six shots and owned a 15-6 lead. Then they missed six straight attempts and were 5-of-23 for the rest of the half.

Utah Valley climbed within 30-26 before the Eastgate Senior Steppers provided halftime entertainment.

"I was very concerned because we should have been up 15," Coach Shulman said. "I felt much better about life before the game than at half. I thought we played really good and they capitalized on every single silly mistake we made."

The Mocs trudged their way to a 55-42 lead with nearly 10 minutes to play after a 12-4 run resulted in at least two points on five straight possessions. And they did so despite allowing 10 offensive rebounds in the first nine minutes of the second half.

"Tonight was like a league game," Bell said. "This team was very tough. I'm very appreciative of my MVP honor, but I can't do it without these guys knocking down shots."

Ricky Taylor ensured that UTC would not let its lead slip away in the waning minutes of the game by scoring 10 points in the final seven minutes.

"Omar had to make shots for us to extend the lead. Ricky Taylor had to make shots," Shulman said. "Those are huge plays, and they were needed and we got them.

"We needed one of those games. I love winning by 35 [as happened Thursday], but that doesn't happen very often."

The Mocs are scheduled to review Friday's game today and then practice Sunday in preparation for their game at Tennessee on Monday night.

"Normally, it's your biggest game of the year," said Shulman, whose squad beat the Vols in 2005. "After Rupp [Kentucky], Assembly Hall [Indiana] and Hinkle Fieldhouse [Butler], it's just another game.

"It's special, what we did seven years ago. I'm never going to forget that."