RADFORD, Va. - Will Wade couldn't remain undefeated forever.
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga first-year basketball coach had his career record leveled at 1-1 with the Mocs' 89-78 loss Monday night at Radford University.
"It was bound to happen sometime," said Wade, who opened his career last Friday with a whipping of Covenant College.
With an increase in the level of the competition and a change in location from McKenzie Arena came a different result. But the Mocs maintained continuous effort and trimmed a 25-point deficit to nine points in the final minute.
"The main thing is that our guys fought," Wade said. "We had a lot of chips going against us. We had major foul trouble with our better players. We couldn't make shots, so we couldn't set our press and set our defense.
"We had a lot of things that didn't go our way."
UTC's Gee McGhee had an open 3-pointer from the corner that would have cut the margin to six and let the Mocs set their pressure defense.
"I see that nobody is going to back down," McGhee said. "We have to correct a couple mistakes. Some shots didn't fall tonight."
McGhee and freshman point guard Greg Pryor led the Mocs with 17 points each. They combined to shoot only 8-of-28 from the floor but 16-of-17 from the free-throw line. Sophomore Eric Robertson added 13 points, including three 3-pointers.
Javone Green led the Highlanders (1-1) with 23 points and 12 rebounds. Rashun Davis scored 13 points and Ya Ya Anderson added 12 for Radford, which will play at UTC next season.
"I thought the guys shared the ball tremendously, which allowed us to get a lead," Radford coach Mike Jones said. "We're not a team where we know how to play with a big lead. We relinquished some of that. But the guys showed composure and did a good job to finish the game."
Radford built its lead in spurts, starting with a 10-1 stretch after the opening tip. Less than five minutes into the game, UTC's most experienced inside man, Zaccheus Mason, had two fouls. Pryor, the point guard, picked up his second about eight minutes into the game, which handcuffed UTC's offense.
"We couldn't ever settle into the game and execute our game plan with our pressing," Wade said. "I'm not making excuses, but we don't have a lot of depth. We had three guys with two fouls in the first half. We had 11 fouls, and it hurt how they were distributed."
The Highlanders crept out to a 31-16 lead with 7:35 to go in the first half. Wade put Pryor and Mason back in the game despite their two fouls apiece.
Pryor made the call pay off. The freshman from Memphis scored nine straight points in a span of 67 seconds to slice Radford's lead to eight points.
But the decision also backfired when Mason picked up his third foul defending around the rim. The whistle started the under-four-minute media timeout and gave Wade a chance to argue the call made from nearly halfcourt. UTC assistant coach Wes Long picked up a technical foul, resulting in a four-point trip for Radford.
The Highlanders led 47-32 at halftime. They turned that lead into a 22-point lead on a dunk by Kyle Noreen five minutes into the second half and then a 25-point lead on a dunk by Jalen Carethers with 14:26 to play.
With foul trouble no longer a concern, UTC scrapped some of the zone defense it played and turned up the pressure after every dead ball. Eventually the Mocs pulled within 12 with 2:36 to go and then within nine with 41 ticks to tock. But the Highlanders were on their way to setting a record for points against a Division I team in Jones' two-plus seasons.
"Being down 25, we continued to scrap for every loose ball," Mason said. "You can tell we fought back together."
Contact David Uchiyama at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6484. Follow him at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.