GREENVILLE, S.C. - Fresh thoughts and observations from the Mocs' 72-63 win Saturday at Furman.
The Opening Tip
Two Southern Conference teams headed by first-year head coaches played a quality early-conference-season game with the proper team prevailing.
UTC played its best game of the season based on the level of competition, the result, the statistics, the effort and the eye-test.
A veteran observer of SoCon hoops told me during a second-half timeout that he can tell Mocs coach Will Wade has a plan, a system and the Mocs could be a force for the rest of the season. The plan is falling into place.
The coaching staff and players needed a few games to find themselves, figure out what they do well (play a 2-3 zone, attack the rim and rebound like mad) and what they can't do well (guard the drive, consistently shoot 3-pointers or step to the line and make free throws).
Wade also came to the realization -- with the help of assistant Wes Long -- that playing a 2-3 zone doesn't necessarily mean giving up 3-pointers to opponents.
It also helps when UTC falls into that defense after pressing with what Wade calls "Box" or "Diamond" in the full court before settling into that zone.
The Paladins were looking a little gassed during the final 10 minutes of the game when UTC pulled away by forcing five turnovers in a stretch that boosted the visitors' lead from four to 13 points.
Looking ahead a day or so, the Mocs should be favored to win at The Citadel. They will win with the same effort given on Saturday.
For the second straight game, a shooting guard led the Mocs in assists. Against Maine, Gee McGhee held the crown. On Saturday against Furman, Casey Jones had eight assists -- falling two short of becoming the first Moc since Keegan Bell (on Dec. 12, 2011, at College of Charleston) to record a triple-double.
Stats STAT! Part Two
UTC out-rebounded Furman 46-37. UTC rebounded a Furman miss 23 times and rebounded its own shots 23 times as well. That resulted in 11 more field-goal attempts for the victors.
I spied ...
• A cool moment between UTC basketball legends. Gerald Wilkins sat for a bit in Timmons Arena to watch his daughter, a sophomore starter for the Lady Paladins, score nine points and grab five rebounds in Furman's 73-54 win over Appalachian State. Then he chatted with more recent legend Johnny Taylor, who is a student assistant for Wade this season.
• A five-time All-Star outfielder in Paul O'Neill who spent 17 seasons in the majors with the Reds and Yankees and won the American League batting title in 1994. His son, Aaron, is averaging 2.2 points per game for the Paladins but did not play.
• A candy grab. A snack-sized Snickers and a snack-sized Twix were spotted on the corner of the scoring table nearest Wade. After the game, freshman Greg Pryor dug through a bag to snag a few snacks for a bus ride back to the Mocs' hotel.
• Former UTC forward Ricky Hood. He helped UTC win at Tennessee on Dec. 5, 2004, and helped lead UTC to the NCAA tournament. His wife, former Lady Moc Nicole Mattison, has a former high school player playing for App State. Hood couldn't connect with former teammate and current coach Casey Long because Long was on the road recruiting.
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