The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's basketball team was tied after a half Tuesday against Ole Miss, but saw the Rebels go on a 15-2 second-half run and pull away for a 70-58 win at the Pavilion at Ole Miss.
Jake Stephens had 16 points, eight rebounds, five assists and a pair of blocks, while Jamal Johnson had 15 points and Demetrius Davis 11 point and three steals for UTC. The Mocs (1-2), who are currently playing without senior forward KC Hankton, junior guard Khristion Courseault and junior forward Grant Ledford, struggled to get production from their bench, which is made up of two true freshman, a redshirt freshman and a sophomore (Jamaal Walker) who missed last season with a medical condition.
Head coach Dan Earl said postgame that he doesn't know the "exact timeline on each guy, but I'm hoping we're going to get them back soon."
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Stephens and AJ Caldwell gave the Mocs a 39-37 lead early in the second half, but the UTC defense continued to lose Ole Miss guard Matthew Murrell. The junior guard continued to make the Mocs pay as he scored 17 of his game-high 25 points in the second half, knocking down four 3-pointers in the process.
"Defensively, we're kind of figuring out how to play our system a little bit more," Earl said. "There's a million things that we have to continue to get better at."
Earl was pleased with the team's effort on the defensive boards, where the Mocs limited the Rebels (3-0) to 12 offensive rebounds. Where the Mocs struggled was points in the paint, where Ole Miss doubled up UTC, 28-14.
The Mocs did receive eight points and six assists from Dalvin White and six points from Caldwell, but the only points from the bench came from Randy Brady. The Chattanooga native scored on a drive to the basket in the second half when he started in place of Davis, who had three first-half fouls.
"We've got a ton to learn from," Earl said. "I thought we battled, but obviously it got away from us in the second half."
The Mocs host Division III Covenant College Saturday at 2, the first of a three-game homestand that includes games next week with Lipscomb and Murray State.
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com.