Chattanooga Mocs's loss extends a woeful run

Chattanooga Mocs's loss extends a woeful run

December 17th, 2012 by David Uchiyama in Sports - College

UTC's Ronrico White drives past Mercer's Jakob Gollon in the Mocs' 63-53 win at McKenzie Arena on Sunday.

Photo by Allison Love/Times Free Press.

UTC freshman Gee McGhee attempts to steal the ball from Mercer's Jibri Bryan during the Mocs' 63-53 loss Sunday.

Photo by Allison Love/Times Free Press.

Farad Cobb hurt his knee and did not return. Gee McGhee hurt his right Achilles tendon and played through a little pain.

Zaccheus Mason got popped in the eye and lost a contact.

And the Mocs lost again.

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga fell 63-53 to Mercer on Sunday evening before an announced crowd of 2,408 including a section full of Bears fans.

The Mocs (2-8) followed a growing trend of falling behind in the first half and failing to complete a rally in the second half. The loss is UTC's fourth in a row and sixth consecutive defeat at home.

They fell behind by as many as 16 and pulled to within six points with possession of the ball and 1:13 left in the game thanks in part to walk-on guard Alex Bran who sparked his teammates and gave the sparse crowd something to scream about.

"We're getting better, but it's hard to see," coach John Shulman joked. "You'd better have bi-focals on."

Mason led UTC with 13 points, McGhee scored all 12 of his points in the first half and the Bears (6-5) were led by 19 points from Langston Hall and 10 from Travis Smith.

"I hate our record and like our team," said Shulman, whose career coaching record dropped to 134-135 at UTC. "We're hanging in there and playing just good enough to be on the outside looking in. "I don't think being negative is a good thing right now."

UTC began with a quick start and a 10-5 lead. Then the Bears reeled off a 19-0 run and kept UTC scoreless for more than eight minutes of the first half. The Mocs had 13 straight possessions end with zero points until McGhee hit a turn-around jumper off the backboard with 9:06 to go in the first half. He followed with a 3-pointer on the next trip down.

"I seen that they know our plays, and it was hard because they were yelling out our plays," McGhee said. "I went to the bench, talked with [Dontay Hampton] and he told me to tight curl it. And then my shot became open."

McGhee made five field goals in the first half. The rest of his teammates -- all 10 of them -- combined to hit four shots before UTC went into the break trailing 33-22.

"A lot of the separation happened because of our defense even though we were able to make shots," Mercer coach Bob Hoffman said. "In the second half, they got some offensive rebounds and that allowed them to get into our separation."

Bran entered with the Mocs down by 16 and Cobb, the reserve point guard, rubbing his left knee. Bran buried a 3-pointer. He made a steal and went the length of the court before getting fouled. He hit both free throws. Sam Watson added a bucket. One more defensive stop later and Bran stepped back for another 3-pointer to get UTC within 41-35.

Bran scored eight points in less than two minutes with his team down 16 points and on the verge of getting blown out it its own arena.

"He got our team back into it, he got us more focused," Mason said. "We were all frustrated. He gave us that spark."

The spark fizzled out with a missed jumper starting a 10-2 run by the Bears which gave them a comfortable lead in the final minutes.

The Mocs had one chance to make it a one-possession game. But a runner by Ronrico White missed he rim with 1:04 to go. Mercer made its final four free throws for the 10-point win.

"We did nothing right for the most part and it was a six-point game with two minutes to play," Shulman said. "We're going to get rewarded if we keep battling."

The immediate reward is four days of practice then a sacrificial lamb on Friday at noon in the form of Reinhardt.

"We're going to work at being better at this game," Shulman said. "I'm frustrated, and I know our fans are frustrated."