Shooting skill keeps Martynas Bareika on floor for UTC Mocs

Shooting skill keeps Martynas Bareika on floor for UTC Mocs

December 17th, 2013 by David Uchiyama in Sports - College

UTC guard Martynas Bareika (10) shoots over Montreat forward Myles Marshall (21) during the Mocs' basketball game against the Cavaliers at McKenzie Arena in Chattanooga.

Photo by Doug Strickland/Times Free Press.

Martynas Bareika is making the most of a situation for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's basketball team.

The situation is injuries.

Junior Lance Stokes did not play against Hiwassee last Tuesday due to a sore foot. He returned Sunday in UTC's 87-71 loss at Northern Kentucky, but senior forward Zaccheus Mason spent the game on the bench wearing a walking boot because of a broken and swollen big toe.

Bareika, who grew up in Lithuania, crushed his previous collegiate high of 20 points by scoring 29 against the Norse on 7-of-14 shooting from the floor and 12-of-13 from the free-throw line in a career-high 37 minutes.

He's scored in double figures in three straight games, starting with 17 at Georgia. He had 10 against Hiwassee.

"I thought Marty and Casey [Jones] were really good yesterday," UTC coach Will Wade said Monday. "And Marty, it wasn't just because he scored. Outside of one defensive lapse, he was really good."

Bareika had one double-figure scoring game against a Division I team in his first two seasons -- 12 points against The Citadel last year -- and is far from the first option in Wade's up-tempo system. But he does have one skill that Wade really loves, and it allows Bareika, generously listed at 6-foot-5, to fit into a system that ideally would have a taller and more athletic guy playing power forward.

He can shoot.

Bareika is 35-of-79 (44.3 percent) from the floor this season, including 21-of-52 (40.4 percent) from the 3-point line, which ranks him fifth in the Southern Conference among players who have attempted at least 40 3s. He has hit 77.1 percent of his free throws, which is second on the team to Greg Pryor.

"I'm a mismatch for them," Bareika said on the postgame radio show Sunday. "Having [Mason] would really help us out. But we can't complain. It's not an excuse to win or lose a game."

Bareika should be available to start Wednesday when the Mocs (4-7) play at Alabama-Birmingham (8-2), if Mason is unable to participate. Wade said Monday that Mason is questionable.

"It's still swollen," Wade said of Mason's toe. "We have to wait for the swelling to go down. We've got to have other guys step up and score and make plays in his absence.

"There are guys who got their opportunity yesterday."

Bareika took advantage of it. Freshman center T.J. Williams, who is the standard substitute center for Mason, did not score or grab a rebound, and he fouled twice in his nine minutes.

Stokes scored six points and grabbed four rebounds Sunday, and Jones, who played some at power forward, finished with 10 points and seven rebounds.

"Casey is going all out on every play," Wade said. "We've got to have guys step up -- not so much to make up for Mason's scoring, but the other things. We can make up the points, but rebounding is what we're missing. We have to rebound by committee."

Grabbing a few crucial rebounds would have made a difference Sunday. Maybe not enough to win, but Wade pointed out that UTC let NKU (2-7) get a couple of offensive rebounds during a 19-0 run that gave the Norse a 67-45 lead with 13 minutes to play.

"You have to get those critical stops and get your feet back under you," Wade said. "We had chances to get to stops in their big run, but we failed to secure the rebound. If we had got either one, we would have stayed in the game more."

Bareika did his best to keep it close.

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