There are several benefits for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga playing basketball at Louisiana State tonight.
First, UTC's Gee McGhee, who played at Redemptorist High School in Baton Rouge, will get to play in front of at least 40 friends and family members.
Fellow Mocs freshman Casey Jones said Sunday that his high school squad at Higgins in New Orleans planned to rent a bus for family and friends to come watch him play against the Tigers.
UTC coach John Shulman looked forward to stuffing his belly with food from Tony's -- a Cajun buffet with no seats.
And the UTC program will enjoy a $90,000 check that comes from playing at LSU (5-0) tonight at 8 EST on CSS.
"Everybody wants to go home and play, and I wouldn't say we're going down there just for Casey and Gee, because that check is a big reason," joked Shulman, who was asked by UTC administrators to play for about $180,000 in guarantee games this season.
"It's a good combination," Shulman said. "We take care of Gee and Casey and make a lot of money."
The Mocs flew from Chattanooga to Atlanta, switched planes and flew to Baton Rouge on Monday. Then the team bus rolled up to Tony's.
That part of the trip had Shulman licking his lips Sunday before practice just thinking about Boudin sausage, jambalaya and a crawfish boil. McGhee recommended the place to Shulman and assistant coach Brent Jolly during his recruitment.
"I love Creole food and I asked Gee, 'Where should we go?'" Shulman said. "He said, 'I'd go to Tony's, but I wouldn't go after dark because you'll be in the minority,' and he said it very nicely.
"Oh, it's my favorite place in the world. It's like a supermarket of Cajun food and you don't sit down."
Jim Horten, UTC assistant director of communications, confirmed Monday that the Mocs grabbed food from Tony's to go.
"At first our guys will think it's ghetto because you can't sit down," McGhee said Sunday. "There's a lot of stuff to eat there. Crawfish, Boudin balls, baked crawfish -- you can get anything you want from there. And I know the owner because his son went to school with me. Every time I go there, he's showed me love."
Former Mocs, including Kevin Bridgewaters and Stephen McDowell, have played road games close to their hometowns with lackluster results. It's a common occurrence for college basketball players to try too hard in their homecomings.
Bridgewaters shot 3-of-14 in a 16-point loss to Kentucky in Freedom Hall in Louisville. McDowell, who has the UTC career and single-season record for 3-pointers made, shot 2-of-13 at Indiana in his return to the Hoosier State.
McGhee doesn't care about that.
"I don't put pressure on myself," he said Sunday. "I played against these people before. I played in the gym a lot in AAU. I ain't scared. I'm happy to play LSU. I may not get all the tickets I want, but folks I know can get in. It ain't going to be sold out."
The Tigers were one of 14 undefeated NCAA teams heading into action Monday night. Shulman joked that the Mocs are playing two of them back to back, having seen Eastern Kentucky go to 9-0 on Saturday.
Jones wasn't joking Sunday about his excitement to play against the big state school from where he, McGhee and UTC assistant coach Casey Long grew up.
"I'm really excited because my whole family will be there. My brothers and sisters plus Mom and Dad makes 10 already," Jones said. "My high school coach will be there, and my old high school team is going, too.
"I dreamed of playing against LSU. I hated LSU."
Contact David Uchiyama at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6484. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...