ATLANTA - Fresh thoughts and observations from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's 74-58 loss at Georgia Tech:
The Mocs strolled out of the renovated McCamish Pavillion with their heads held high and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga $80,000 richer.
Coach John Shulman and a few players felt as if they let a big victory slip away from them because they failed to rebound -- especially in the second half.
Neither team played up to its full potential.
And that's understandable because the most important games begin this weekend. UTC (5-9) starts the Southern Conference season in earnest at Samford and the Yellow Jackets (10-2) face Miami in Atlantic Coast Conference competition.
Shulman sounded excited to get on with the heart of the season. He'd like to have senior point guard Dontay Hampton, sophomore post Lance Stokes and freshman wing Casey Jones available to play.
Shulman called for the Mocs play a man-to-man defense for most of the night. He had them switch a few times, such as at the end of the first half and late in the second half when they had hopes of a comeback.
Shulman sprinkled in some 2-3 zone to milk the clock with Zaccheus Mason and Farad Cobb in foul trouble. He called for a 1-3-1 a couple times and was burned.
Then late, he employed a 1-2-2 three-quarter court trap that retreated to a half-court trap in order to get a couple turnovers from the Yellow Jackets.
All of that turned out to be standard Shulman procedure.
But I noticed, especially in the first half, that when Tech threw the ball inside to Daniel Miller, a guard sagged down for a soft double-team on the post. It's much different -- much more simple -- than Shulman's (in)famous "Fire" defense. It's something to watch when the SoCon season starts, especially on Jan. 10 at The Citadel and stud center Mike Groselle.
The stat of the night seemed to be in 3-D.
Georgia Tech out-rebounded UTC 42-25 with 16 of them (a season-high allowed by UTC) were offensive rebounds.
In addition, Georgia Tech scored 21 second-chance points, and the Mocs only had five. UTC entered the game leading the SoCon in rebounding margin at plus-seven and had out-rebounded opponents by 10 or more six times so far.
Two of Farad Cobb's three best games came against big-boy in schools -- at Kansas with 21 points and Wednesday night with 14 against the Yellow Jackets.
Gee McGhee struggled with a 2-for-8 night. Eric Robertson went 0-for-1 with two rebounds in 12 minutes. Alex Bran seemed over-matched in his two minutes of playing time. And Casey Jones looked dour in street clothes. UTC could have used his athleticism and the ability to grab more offensive rebounds than defensive rebounds before his knee injury on Dec. 21.
The non-conference season is over.
UTC starts the SoCon slate in the hole 0-1 with the loss coming to Davidson which it would not face again until the SoCon tournament.
Based on what you've seen so far, how have your expectations for UTC's season changed? Do you expect more wins after it won the Dr Pepper Classic and gave Georgia Tech a game? Or are expectations that UTC needs to win four games in four days in Asheville?