After a while, QJ Peterson's Virginia Military Institute teammates just decided to step aside and let him go to work.
It proved to be a good idea.
Peterson finished with 40 points, 28 in the second half, and the Keydets only missed five second-half shots on their way to an 80-64 win over the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga on Wednesday at McKenzie Arena.
The Mocs (15-5, 6-2 Southern Conference) return to competition Saturday at East Tennessee State.
Peterson made 15 of his 19 attempts from the field and was 7-for-9 from 3-point range. In the second half, he missed his first shot — a layup in the second minute of the half — then proceeded to hit his final 10, including six 3-pointers.
"My teammates told me in the huddle to just keep on shooting, and that's what I did, really," Peterson said. "I seen a few go in, but they just encouraged me to keep on shooting. They kind of recognized it, and I kind of fed off of them."
The Keydets (5-14, 2-6) were 17-for-22 from the field in the second half.
The Mocs were never able to get anything going. They had 23 turnovers, their most since committing 26 against North Carolina on Nov. 13, and shot only 25 percent (8-for-32) in the second half. That included a 3-for-22 showing from 3-point range as they began to settle for any shot available, frustrated at times by an active VMI zone defense.
The Mocs had 16 offensive rebounds in the second half but converted those into only 10 points.
"It starts with me," UTC second-year coach Matt McCall said. "I'm the coach. I'm the leader. I didn't do a good enough job of getting our team prepared for this game at all. It stings. It hurts. It's definitely the worst performance we've had since I've been here — not even close.
"Give them (VMI) a lot of credit. They played spirited. QJ Peterson was electric, and we had no answer for him, at all."
Still, the Mocs were ahead 32-30 at halftime, led by Greg Pryor, who scored 12 of his season-high 23 points in the first 20 minutes. There were bad signs in the first half, as the Mocs shot well (65 percent) but turned the ball over 10 times.
"I feel like we just tried to overpass," Pryor said. "We had good shots, but we'd try to interior pass. We had a lot of turnovers trying to pass out of the zone or trying to pass through the zone. They capitalized on that and got a lot of momentum on our turnovers, so we have to do a better job of taking care of the ball."
The Keydets used a 12-1 run to start the second half to take control of the game, and anytime the Mocs tried to make a run, the visitors turned to Peterson, who time and time again had an answer.
McLean finished with 11 points and eight rebounds, but he was 1-for-11 from 3-point range. Johnathan Burroughs-Cook had seven points and a team-high four assists, while Justin Tuoyo had six points and six rebounds, but he fouled out in 19 minutes.
Julian Eleby had 14 points and Armani Branch 13 for the Keydets.
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @genehenleytfp.