The most important thing to happen to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's basketball team Monday night may not have been its 84-52 win over Tennessee Temple, but a message sent by coach John Shulman.
The message: If some of the Mocs don't play the way Shulman wants them to, they can sit and watch -- "and learn by the seat of their pants."
"It's a great way to learn," Shulman said. "The quickest way to your brain is through your tail, and that's getting ready to happen."
The Mocs reserves played more than half the game and by themselves outscored Tennessee Temple 53-52. DeAntre Jefferson was one of several Mocs to have a productive game off the bench, finishing with a career-high 13 points and nine rebounds in 18 minutes. Ricky Taylor and Jeff Smith added 10 points each off the bench.
"I really think in the long run we're going to get a lot out of this, because if you didn't do what you were supposed to do, you sat -- and we still had success," Shulman said. "And we had success doing things that we wanted to do."
Forward Ridge McKeither started his 11th game of the season for UTC but got the hook from Shulman pretty early in each half and didn't score in seven minutes of action. Playing in his fourth game of the season, Ty Patterson scored 12 points and Jeremy Saffore had 11.
Johnnie McLawhorn led Temple (5-9) with 15 points, and Jarrett Smith added nine.
The Mocs got off to a slow start against the crosstown Crusaders in their final game before Christmas break -- Shulman said "we looked like some of us had already gone, had already left at about 6:45 tonight to go to Christmas" -- but the Mocs picked up the pace as the first half progressed.
The teams combined to miss 11 of their first 15 shots, and the score was tied at 6 after more than five minutes of action. The Mocs then went on a 12-2 run.
McLawhorn hit a 3-pointer to cut the Mocs' lead to 30-22 later in the half, before UTC surged again to close the half on a 16-6 run.
It was more of the same in the second half as UTC slowly pulled away from the Crusaders, who shot 29.5 percent from the field, hitting 5 of 28 3-point attempts. The Mocs shot 54.5 percent for the game and outrebounded Temple 47-30.
"We were supposed to have a big margin on the glass because they were smaller than us," Jefferson said, "and I think we were just more physical, and height-wise we kind of beat them out. I think we needed to be way aggressive, and I think we did that."
The Mocs host Long Island in the Dr Pepper Classic next Tuesday.