Chattanooga Mocs win SoCon opener at Furman

Chattanooga Mocs win SoCon opener at Furman

January 5th, 2014 by David Uchiyama in Sportscollege

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GREENVILLE, S.C. - Will Wade isn't that much older than his University of Tennessee at Chattanooga basketball players.

The 31-year-old flashed his youth and quickness with an emphatic fist-pump after Furman called for time following a streak that gave UTC control of the game Saturday.

"He was pretty intense right there," said sophomore Casey Jones, who played one of the best games of his career. "It's one thing when you see players excited about the game. When you see Coach that excited, you want to go even harder."

The Mocs' efforts paid off with a 72-63 victory over the Paladins in the Southern Conference season opener for both teams and both first-year head coaches: Wade and Furman's Niko Medved.

The run resulting in Wade's excitement extended UTC's slim second-half lead to 11 points with 5:26 to go in a game that included five ties and six lead changes.

"We've been doing stuff the right way and it needed to pay off," Wade said after calming down a bit. "Right then, I felt that we had it. That was the run that we needed. That was the turning point, and I felt like we could do this."

The Mocs (7-8) hadn't won a true road game this season and went 4-9 in road games last season. In the 2011-12 season, UTC did not win a single game on the road.

"It's definitely a good feeling," senior Zaccheus Mason said. "I know this is the first conference win for Coach Wade. It's a good feeling all the way around."

Mason recorded his fourth straight double-double with 20 points and 13 rebounds. He added a career-high six blocked shots, which is the most of any SoCon player this season.

Jones came within two assists of a triple-double. He scored 13 points and added a career-high 13 rebounds -- including eight offensive rebounds -- to his career-high eight assists. Senior Ronrico White added 13 points and Gee McGhee scored 11 in the win.

"I thought I was playing pretty bad because shots weren't going in," said Jones, who went 6-of-13 from the floor. "When Coach [Brooks] Savage said I had 13, 13 and eight, I thought he was teasing me.

"It was by playing hard, I guess."

Sophomore guard Stephen Croone led Furman with 19 points. Kendrec Ferrara scored 13 and Larry Wideman added 10 for the Paladins, who shot 3-of-14 from the 3-point line against UTC's half-court defense.

"This is the best win of the year we've had, by far," Wade said. "I knew before the game that the guys were honed in. We did a really good job with the scouting report. I thought our pressure took its toll on them.

"We were really good on the backboards, and it saved us when we didn't shoot it well."

The first half included four ties and six lead changes before took a 30-29 edge into the locker room.

The Mocs led by seven after Mason drained a 3-pointer, after which Wade shouted, "Good play-call, Rico!" But the Paladins closed the half on an 8-2 run and survived having four starters each commit two fouls before the break.

The hosts trailed by four with 10 minutes to play. Then UTC reeled off a 15-4 streak -- covering two timeouts and one huge fist-pump -- to take a 61-48 lead with five minutes to play.

"Our press definitely was taking [an effect] on them," Mason said. "I know we got a couple turnovers at key moments. The press came through and helped us a lot in the second half."

UTC held the Paladins at bay over the final minutes and boarded the bus smiling. The Mocs are headed to Charleston on Sunday for a game Monday night at The Citadel.

"Everybody chipped in," Wade said. "It wasn't pretty. We found a way to get it done."

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