After sluggish start, UTC Mocs roll over Hiwassee 86-68

After sluggish start, UTC Mocs roll over Hiwassee 86-68

December 11th, 2013 by David Uchiyama in Sports - College

UTC guard Gee McGhee, left, lays the ball up past Hiwassee forward Howie Meadows Tuesday at McKenzie Arena.

Photo by Doug Strickland/Times Free Press.

Will Wade wasn't sure anybody saw his action Tuesday.

But almost everybody -- especially the players in the huddle -- heard and witnessed the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga coach twice slam a clipboard to the court with the Mocs trailing by three points to one-win Hiwassee.

It's as angry as he's been during a game all season. His mood improved as the Mocs improved, eventually polishing off the Tigers 86-68 in McKenzie Arena.

Senior center Zaccheus Mason set a career high with 41 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Sophomore guard Casey Jones tied his career high with 17 points and added seven rebounds. They combined to shoot 23-of-30 from the floor.

"Obviously, not our best performance," Wade said. "Hopefully we knocked the rust off. Z was really good. Casey played well. Outside of that, we weren't very good.

"Outside of Z and Casey, I'm hard-pressed to find a lot of positives."

One of the loudest ovations of the night from the crowd listed at 2,503 came when junior guard Ronrico White made his first season appearance after hip surgery in July. White played the last five minutes of the game and missed a jump shot from the left wing.

"This is why I've been rehabbing," White said. "It was just basketball all over again."

And once again, the Mocs (4-6) had a slow start and were troubled by opposing guards driving the ball. UTC also had its share of offensive woes in the first quarter of the game.

Turnovers included carrying, stepping on the baseline, traveling in the paint and setting an illegal screen. The Mocs also missed their first six free throws and wound up 15-of-28 from the stripe.

"Give them credit. They broke us down off the dribble, found the open man and shared the ball," Wade said of the Tigers (1-9), who were led by 26 points on 8-of-12 3-point shooting from Howie Meadows. "We gave them confidence, and they took advantage of it."

The Mocs trailed 26-23 during a timeout with 7:04 to go in the first half. But UTC closed the half on a 9-0 run with Jones tipping in a missed 3-pointer one second before the horn sounded.

"We didn't come out as aggressive as we should have," Jones said. "We went into the locker room and some people got mad, and it showed. We got loosened up in the second half. We went out there and tried to play a little harder as a team."

The Mocs, with Mason leading the way, built a 10-point lead less than three minutes into the second half. It remained at least 12 points and swelled to as many as 23 when White, and later walk-on Jay Wimbley, made their season debuts.

"We got better as the [first] half went along," Wade said. "We're not going to have the luxury of spotting teams points and 15 minutes of poor play. If we have 15 minutes of poor play on Sunday [at Northern Kentucky] we'll be down 20."

"Hopefully it was a wake-up call."

Contact David Uchiyama at duchiyama@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6484. Follow him at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.