Will Wade had high hopes for Zaccheus Mason before the season.
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga coach wanted his senior center to be among the top rebounders in the nation and among the top scorers in the Southern Conference.
Scoring 41 points and grabbing 12 rebounds in a game -- as Mason did Tuesday against Hiwassee -- goes a long way toward those ambitions.
Wade would enjoy seeing similar success from Mason plus the rest of the Mocs playing up to their potential when UTC (4-6) plays at Northern Kentucky at noon today.
Mason said he'll do his best.
"I'm trying to be aggressive on the offense end to give our team all I have," said Mason, the lone senior on Wade's first team. "I'm trying to use my talents to help the team out in all aspects of the game."
Mason played one of the best games in UTC history Tuesday and had one of the best performances to date from any player in the SoCon.
He's the only player in UTC's conference to have scored more than 40 points in a game heading into Saturday's games. He's the only Moc with more than 30 points and more than 10 rebounds in a game since Oliver Morton had 34 and 12 at Appalachian State in 2000.
"Coach had a handful of plays that he called for me," Mason said as the Mocs headed to Highland Heights, Ky. "At halftime, he made it clear that he wanted to get the ball inside and for me to continue to be aggressive."
A repeat performance would be ideal for the Mocs, but it is not likely because Mason should be the top defensive priority for the Norse (1-7). So others will need to contribute.
Sophomore Gee McGhee went scoreless for the first time in his career Tuesday. UTC can't win against a Division I team with a similar output.
But running mate Casey Jones is coming off one of the best games of his career and has thrived at times in Wade's up-tempo system. Jones set a career high with 17 points against Kennesaw State and tied it on Tuesday while spending a chunk of his 24 minutes playing power forward while starter Lance Stokes rested an injured foot.
"I like playing the 4 [position] because it's a little advantage for me playing against bigger, slower, players," said the slender 6-foot-5 wing. "I'll play whatever Coach wants."
Stokes is likely to return to the starting lineup today against NKU. He will be welcomed by both Mason and Jones.
"He helps out the press and helps us defensively," Mason said. "He brings energy, and it will be good to have him back on the court and give us a boost in our press. We can get it going."
If the Mocs get it going well enough, they can pull out their second win of the season against a Division I team. The Norse, who play in the Atlantic Sun Conference, also have just one win against a Division I team -- at Tulane in overtime.
"I've seen a lot of improvement in the last few days," Mason said. "We're communicating defensively. You can tell a difference."
Contact David Uchiyama at email@example.com or 423-757-6484. Follow him at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.