After getting off to a bit of a slow start, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's basketball team used a 17-2 run over the first seven minutes of the second half to cruise to an 86-54 exhibition win over Covenant College on Saturday afternoon at McKenzie Arena.
The Mocs had five players score in double figures, led by junior David Jean-Baptiste with 19 points. Ramon Vila and Jonathan Scott added 13 and 12 points, Rod Johnson had 11 and West Virginia transfer Trey Doomes scored 10 in his UTC debut.
"I feel like we did well," Jean-Baptiste said. "Despite who the opponent is and that it's early in the season, everybody played hard.
"Especially with how we responded in the second half. I thought we came out and responded really well."
In the first half, the NCAA Division III Scots were not intimidated by their Division I hosts and used a small lineup and movement to keep the game close. An eight-point run midway through the half gave the Scots a 17-12 lead, and they trailed just 34-31 after Jarad Jauch swished a 3-pointer from three-quarter court as the halftime buzzer sounded.
Chris Barnette led the Scots in scoring with 13 points.
"I was really pleased," Covenant coach Neal Young said. "I thought our guys came out and did everything we asked them to do. Now against these (UTC) guys, you can do everything you're asked to do and still give up offensive rebounds and give up a score.
"But I was pleased with the swagger they came out with and the focus they came out with."
In the second half the Mocs used different lineups to slow the Scots, and the offense picked up the scoring pace to pull away. Coach Lamont Paris, beginning his third season at UTC, credited a core group of returning players for allowing the team to make changes to turn the game around.
"I think it was easier to make adjustments on things when we needed to make adjustments," Paris said. "We want to guard a certain way, and (Covenant) presented us with a couple of challenges. They had a couple of bigs that were hurt so they played a smaller lineup.
"In a perfect world, I wanted to do what we wanted to do but the lineups that they had dictated that we make a change in the second half."
Johnson, a junior from Wisconsin, got his first significant action at UTC after taking a medical redshirt last season, and he performed well with nine rebounds, four assists and a steal to go along with his 11 points.
"Today was big for me in getting my confidence back and getting back into the rhythm and flow of the game against a real opponent," he said. "I started off slow, but I got my head together and picked it up."
The Mocs shot 69.2% from the floor and outrebounded the Scots 34-16. Covenant was just 8-for-25 shooting in the second half after shooting 46.2% in the opening 20 minutes.
While 11 UTC players got in the game and 10 scored, graduate transfer Matt Ryan and freshman Jaden Frazier were held out as a precaution while nursing injuries.
The Mocs open the regular season Nov. 5 at Eastern Kentucky before their true home opener Nov. 7 against Tennessee State.
"Everybody played well, especially the newcomers," Jean-Baptiste said. "They have bought into the system since coming in, and they've practiced hard. They are all just paying attention to details, so it's good to have everyone just buying into the system like that."
UTC 86, COVENANT 54
Barnette 5-8 1-2 13, Allen 3-5 0-0 8, Oetjen 3-4 0-0 7, Billig 2-3 0-0 4, Sanabria 2-4 0-0 4, Mitchell 1-4 0-0 3, Jauch 1-5 0-0 3, Bryan 1-5 0-0 3, Hollis 1-5 0-0 3, Palmer 1-5 0-0 2, Pearlman 0-2 2-3 2, Steele 0-0 2-2 2, Roundtree 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 20-51 5-7 54.
Jean-Baptiste 8-13 2-2 19, Vila 6-8 1-1 13, Scott 5-6 0-0 12, Johnson 4-4 2-4 11, Doomes 4-5 2-3 10, Commander 3-6 0-0 7, Smith 2-2 1-1 5, Caldwell 2-3 0-0 5, Obidiebube 1-2 0-0 2, Brown 1-3 0-0 2, Tostado 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 36-52 8-11 86.
Halftime score: UTC, 34-31. 3-point goals—Covenant 9-28 (Barnette 2-3, Allen 2-4 Jauch 1-1, Oetjen 1-1, Bryan 1-4, Hollis 1-4, Mitchell 1-4, Billig 0-1, Roundtree 0-1, Pearlman 0-2, Palmer 0-3); UTC 6-9 (Scott 2-2, Johnson 1-1, Caldwell 1-1, Jean-Baptiste 1-2, Commander 1-2, Obidiebube 0-1). Rebounds—Covenant 16 (Barnette 4); UTC 34 (Jonson 9, Scott 6), Doomes 4, Vila 4). Assists—Covenant 14 (Barnette 5, Mitchell 3); UTC 17 (Jean-Baptiste 6, Johnson 4). Turnovers—Covenant 14 (Hollis 4); UTC 13 (Scott 4, Commander 3). Steals—Covenant 2 (Jauch, Billig); UTC 7 (Doomes 2). Total fouls—Covenant 14, UTC 10. Fouled out—none.
Area sports notes: Juan Hernandez leads Chattanooga Football Club to win in season finale; team third in NPSL Members Cup