After Sunday's loss at Tennessee Tech, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's basketball coach Lamont Paris was bewildered at what he had just seen.
The Mocs were seemingly off in certain aspects of the 82-76 defeat at the hands of the Golden Eagles. UTC (5-6) shot 47 percent from the field but turned the ball over 19 times, leading to 19 Tennessee Tech points, while giving up 16 offensive rebounds, which led to another 19 points for the home team.
"That's inexcusable," Paris said from Cookeville on the postgame radio broadcast. "There were not that many long rebounds. We can play whoever but can't let that happen. We didn't have our stuff, but the rebounds were inexcusable, and some of the turnovers were careless.
"We had plays right at the rim and missed; we run those plays, we probably finish them 90 percent of the time. I'm more baffled ... than anything."
Hamilton Heights product Aleksa Jugovic led the Golden Eagles (8-4) with 21 points. They improved to 5-0 at home.facebook
Foul trouble was an issue for UTC all game Sunday. Forward Makinde London — who had 21 points, four rebounds and three assists in only 25 minutes — had three first-half fouls, which relegated him to the bench. The Mocs played without 6-foot-8 reserve forward Joshua Phillips, who missed the game due to a violation of team rules, so the only insidei option off the bench was freshman walk-on A.J. Bowers.
In addition, point guard Rodney Chatman fouled out three minutes into the second half, which left the Mocs with only seven healthy scholarship players. Junior Dylan Brewster, who hadn't played since logging 21 minutes in a Nov. 25 win over Tennessee Wesleyan, played six minutes in relief while freshman David Jean-Baptiste moved into Chatman's role in the second half.
"We definitely had to throw some guys in there that didn't get minutes in a lot of other games, but it's all part of the process," junior Nat Dixon said. "We've just got to bounce back. These losses are only really bad if you can't learn from them, so we'll get back to the drawing board, get back to the gym and do what we're supposed to do."
Despite shooting 33 percent from the floor in the first half, the Mocs trailed only 36-31, and it was that much due to a Makale Foreman turnover that the Golden Eagles' Shaq Calhoun turned into a dunk right at the first-half buzzer. The Mocs were far more efficient in the second half, making 14 of their 22 shots, but the turnover problem persisted as they had nine in the second half after 10 in the first.
Even without Chatman — the team's second-leading scorer entering Sunday's contest at 13.6 points per game — the Mocs remained close, last taking a lead when a London layup made it 55-54 with 8:32 to play. The Golden Eagles responded with back-to-back buckets by Micaiah Henry, then stretched the lead to nine before a London 3-pointer before the final buzzer.
It was London's fourth 20-point game this season and second in the last three games. Dixon finished with a career-high 19 points and three assists, while James Lewis had his first career double-double, with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
Foreman had 14 points, playing all 40 minutes. Dixon and Lewis each played 39.
"I understand who we are and that we have a young team," Paris said. "Everyone says that, but we're setting a standard for what we're going to do in some things, and in some things we have to have a high standard. It can't be compromised, won't be compromised. If we do those things, we'll be in games/win games.
"We've done a bunch of those things pretty well, which is why the outcomes of some of these games have been the way they have been. This was another game; we had the game where it was even without doing those things. If we manage those situations, at the two-minute mark it's probably a different scenario than what it ended up being."
Henry scored 14 points for Tennessee Tech, while Kajon Mack had 13 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Curtis Phillips added 12 points with seven rebounds.
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @genehenleytfp.