Any success the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is going to have on the basketball court this season will be contingent on figuring out ways to win games in a similar fashion to how the Mocs did Monday night at Tennessee Tech.
It was a night when shots weren't falling. They were missing a key reserve going into the game and lost a starter during the game, and the team's top two scorers were a combined 9-for-30.
Head coach Lamont Paris even earned a technical in the second half for arguing a foul call.
But it was the visiting team that finished the game with a 14-2 run, pulling away for a 62-54 win at the Eblen Center to improve to 2-0 on the young season.
It was those two guards — Malachi Smith and David-Jean Baptiste — that made plays down the stretch, and it was two others, Stefan Kenic and Trey Doomes, that added key baskets during the run. Smith had 15 points and 14 rebounds for his second consecutive double-double, while Jean-Baptiste chipped in 12 and Kenic 11.
Doomes finished with eight points.
Tennessee Tech shot considerably better (42% to 31%), but the Mocs forced 16 Golden Eagle turnovers.
"We were grateful for the opportunity just to be out here and have a chance to compete," Paris said. "And I think it's great, really good for their their psyche and their mental status (to get to play). And so I'm happy that they're able to do that, but at the same time, I think part of that normalcy is that you coach them hard to coach them to win. And so that's what we do."
The Mocs played the final half of the game without starting guard A.J. Caldwell, who took an elbow to the eye while defending a post up. Sophomore Prosper Obidiebube missed the game after being poked in the eye in the season opener against Lander.
"I think that it just feels good knowing that even when stuff isn't going right, you can still pull the game out," Smith said. "You know, it's easy to celebrate when all the shots are going in and everything's going your way. But when you're able to grind it out and win playing defense, controlling the stuff that you can control. I think that's a good stepping stepping stone for us to build off of."
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