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Staff photo by Robin Rudd / UTC's Josh Ayeni, left, battles in the lane with Lander's LaRaymond Spivery during the Mocs' season opener Wednesday afternoon at McKenzie Arena. UTC won 99-63.

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's basketball team opened its 2020-21 season with a 99-63 win over NCAA Division II program Lander University on Wednesday afternoon at McKenzie Arena.

The Mocs never trailed against the Bearcats from Greenwood, South Carolina, scoring on a quick drive to the basket by Josh Ayeni 12 seconds into the game and jumping out to a 10-0 advantage.

All 10 UTC players who appeared in the game scored at least five points, led by David Jean-Baptiste's 19. Malachi Smith added 18 with 10 rebounds and five assists, Stefan Kenic finished with 11 and made all three of his 3-point attempts, Ayeni scored 10 points and A.J. Caldwell added nine with eight rebounds and five assists.

The Mocs' next scheduled game is also at home, against Northern Kentucky at 2 p.m. Saturday.

Photo Gallery

UTC men's basketball vs. Lander on Nov. 25, 2020

Here are three takeaways from Wednesday's matchup at McKenzie:

 

Smith early, DJB late

It didn't take long for Smith to get going, with all 12 of his first-half points coming by the 10:03 mark. Jean-Baptiste, who missed his first eight shots, did all of his scoring from the 5:26 mark of the first half to the 13:16 mark of the second, when he exited for good. Those two plus Caldwell will have to handle most of the perimeter scoring load this season, and that trio proved capable Wednesday.

 

Mocs mostly solid on defense

The Bearcats, who are athletic enough to cause matchup problems, had spells of success getting to the lane, though that seemed to dissipate somewhat as the game went along. While UTC tries to settle into its rotation offensively, its defense must lead the way. The Mocs' length and athleticism makes that possible.

 

Dominant as expected

A Division I team beating a D-II team isn't a surprise, but how the Mocs controlled both ends of the court that should leave them, their coaches and their fans pleased. Worth remembering is that when UTC coach Lamont Paris made his debut in November 2017, the Mocs lost an exhibition 68-63 to Francis Marion, another D-II school in South Carolina. To tip off his fourth season in Chattanooga, the Mocs shot well, defended the 3, controlled the boards and created turnovers by the Bearcats. The competition will get much tougher, but a well-played opener is a plus.

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

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