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Tennessee guard Yves Pons (35) works for a shot as he's defended by Chattanooga guard Matt Ryan (32) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Monday, Nov. 25, 2019, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

KNOXVILLE — And then David Jean-Baptiste dribbled the ball off his knee and out of bounds.

That was the last gasp for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in its failed attempt to upset No. 17 Tennessee inside Thompson-Boling Arena on Monday night.

In all honesty, it was pretty much over long before then. If you can't score, you can't win. And watching the Mocs miss everything from layups to jump hooks to 3-pointers to free throws throughout their 58-46 loss was about as painful as a root canal.

Not that the victorious Volunteers were much better. In fact, those 58 points were 17 fewer than the Big Orange had scored in any game all season.

To that point, UTC coach Lamont Paris said afterward, "Oh, I'd take that (58 points allowed) and run. You hold a team in the 50s, you feel like you'll have a chance to win."

(Read more: Tennessee struggles offensively, but John Fulkerson and defense shine in lackluster win over UTC)

Normally you would. You should. But not when you brick 37 of 56 total field-goal attempts, as the Mocs did, and convert just two of four free throws while the Vols were hitting 15 of 23 free throws in the second half alone.

But that's life on the road as a mid-major against a nationally ranked opponent who was ranked No. 1 for a good chunk of last season. Tennessee is pretty good and was at home, and the Mocs probably were going to have to be a whole lot better than good to have a chance in this one.

some text Chattanooga guard David Jean-Baptiste (3) looks to pass as he's defended by Tennessee guard Lamonte Turner, right, during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Monday, Nov. 25, 2019, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

So what was learned from this one on both sides?

No. 1: UTC should be pretty good once it returns to mid-major competition instead of contesting high major teams such as Florida State and UT away from home. No, the Mocs don't currently look much of a threat to shock someone in the NCAA tournament should they be fortunate enough to represent the (likely) one-bid Southern Conference, but March Madness is played on neutral courts, often in arenas no more than 70 percent full.

Beyond that, it's November. Barring injuries or off-court distractions, the Mocs are almost certain to be far better by February.

Even Monday, winning coach Rick Barnes said of UTC's strategy to slow the game down, "You can keep guys from running by sending five guys back (after a missed shot on offense), by not turning the ball over and by not taking bad shots."

A quick glance at the stat sheet showed the Mocs with nine turnovers to UT's 10 and a 13-6 disadvantage on the offensive glass — which would indicate they were hurrying back on misses. As for the bad shots, most of UTC's shots were bad only because they failed to go in the basket.

In other words, coaching didn't lose this game. The inability to shoot the basketball did.

Of course, that's also been an ongoing problem, judging by the fact that the Mocs are now shooting under 40 percent from the floor (39.5%) for the season.

"I thought if we played defense at a high level we wouldn't have to have an earth-shattering day on offense," Paris said. "But I thought we'd have to have a pretty good day."

(Read more: The Good, the Bad, the Verdict: Defense keys Vols' defeat of Mocs)

Instead, four of the five UTC starters missed at least twice as many shots as they made. Only hitting six of 19 3-pointers — including two apiece from reserves A.J. Caldwell and Jonathan Scott — kept it as close as it was, the Mocs briefly drawing within 38-32 and 44-36 in the final half.

"That's a really good team, especially on the defensive end," Paris said. "They do a good job of challenging shots at the rim."

Seven blocked shots were concrete evidence of that. As was the shooting percentage. And the final score.

Nor is this the last time UTC will face such an imposing foe, since it plays at Virginia Tech on Dec. 11 and the Hokies just knocked off preseason No. 1 Michigan State in Maui.

But the Vols are about to face tougher competition, too. Florida State, which pummeled the Mocs 89-53 last week, plays UT on Friday night in the Emerald Coast Classic in Niceville, Florida. There are future dates with either Purdue or VCU in the Emerald Coast tourney on Saturday, followed by games against Memphis, Cincinnati and Wisconsin, which almost certainly will slow the game through its defense, much as Paris, a former Wisconsin assistant, did on Monday.

And given that, Barnes wasn't about to go easy on his squad.

Reflecting on a short pass thrown by freshman Josiah-Jordan James to fellow freshman Olivier Nkamhoua, who was streaking in for a dunk before James' pass proved too hot to handle: "(NFL Hall of Fame receiver) Fred Biletnikoff couldn't have caught it."

(Read more: UTC's Good, Bad and Verdict from loss to Vols)

Yet much as Paris could have also lamented, Barnes spent most of his time focusing on "the missed layups. Just making those layups gets the lead to 20."

Then again, if UTC had hit all the layups it missed, the Vols might have lost.

They didn't lose, though. The Big Orange won for the fifth time in five games, even if Barnes was right to say, "It wasn't very pretty, I'll tell you that."

However, come the early spring, when such results are studied by the NCAA tournament selection committee, UT senior guard Lamonte Turner, he of the 12 assists and one turnover, probably best explained the lasting impact of this far less than pretty game.

Said Turner: "At the end of the year, it's a 'W.'"

some text Mark Wiedmer

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com.

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