UTC men stellar on defense to roll past UNC Asheville in home opener

Staff photo by Troy Stolt / UTC's Avery Diggs (23) grabs a rebound during Sunday's game against UNC Asheville at McKenzie Arena.

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's basketball team dominated UNC Asheville on Sunday afternoon at McKenzie Arena, with the Mocs building as much as a 21-point lead in the first half on the way to a 75-45 win in their home opener.

The Mocs (2-0) limited the Bulldogs (1-2) to 30% shooting from the field. The visitors had averaged 89 points while shooting 49% in their first two games, when they also averaged 13.5 makes and 48% success from 3-point range. The Bulldogs were 4-of-20 from 3-point range against UTC.

"I told the guys if you're going to do that defensively, you have a chance to beat the (Los Angeles) Lakers," UTC coach Lamont Paris said. "We didn't shoot particularly great, particularly from the 3-point line where some of our better shooters struggled a little bit, but I just can't say enough about what we did defensively in that game."

The Mocs were only 6-of-21 from 3-point range, but it didn't matter. It also helped that UTC scored 46 points in the paint, 23 points on 13 UNC Asheville turnovers and 21 second-chance points.

Darius Banks led the Mocs with 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting. David Jean-Baptiste followed his 26-point game in Tuesday's opener against Loyola Marymount with 14, while Silvio De Sousa and Grant Ledford had 11 each. KC Hankton scored just six but led the Mocs with nine rebounds, and Malachi Smith had a team-high six assists to offset a poor shooting performance (1-for-9 from the field, five points).

Sunday's game was also the opener of the Coke Zero Sugar Classic presented by 3H Group and Springhill Suites Downtown Chattanooga. UTC hosts Tennessee Tech at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the second game of the event, which closes with UNC Asheville and Tennessee Tech playing at 7 p.m. Thursday.

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @genehenley3.