Ending practice had been a beast of a task for the Mocs leading up to their 86-68 win over Hiwassee on Tuesday.
It could have been easy.
All they needed to do was make three defensive half-court stops against the scout squad consisting of Andrew Houts, Casey Long, Tre McLean, Justin Tuoyo and Johnny Taylor.
"They torched them," University of Tennessee at Chattanooga head coach Will Wade said. "They put their head down and drive. They run the other team's stuff."
It's a drill that Wade budgeted for 10 minutes of his practice time earlier this week.
"It took 32 minutes to get three straight stops," Wade said. "It took us 28 minutes the next day."
Half-court defense is obviously a problem for UTC when players in the rotation can't stop the scout team.
Granted, the scout team included a 39-year-old first-round draft pick in Johnny Taylor, a 1,000-point scorer in guard Casey Long, a transfer from VCU in Tuoyo, a transfer from Queens University in McLean and lights-out walk-on shooter from Dade County.
"[In the drill] everything has to be right," Wade said. "That's what it takes to win.
"It's more of a 'want-to' issue than a scheme issue. You have to want to sit down, and get stops and take pride in getting stops."
The Mocs did none of the above for the first 15 minutes against the Tigers (1-9) who play in the National Christian Collegiate Athletic Association.
Hiwassee, a small college located a few miles to the east of off Exit 60 on I-75, with an enrollment of less than 400 students, led a 10-time Southern Conference champion, on its home-court 36-30, with 3:20 to go in the first half.
UTC closed the half on a 9-0 run with leading scorers Zaccheus Mason and Casey Jones scoring all nine points.
"I was actually pretty calm at halftime," Wade said. "I told them, 'Now we have to get back to playing.' We were better in the second half.
"We need to start like that and not keep going and playing in spurts."
UTC wore down the Tigers in the second half. Once the lead reached double digits three minutes into the second half, it never shrunk to less than 10.
Mason made sure of that. He scored 19 points after the break and finished with 41 points while resting for the final five minutes. He became the first Southern Conference player to score 40 points in a game this season.
He's the first UTC player with 40 points since Ricky Taylor torched UNC Greensboro for 40 points on Jan. 27, 2011. Mason is also the first UTC with more than 30 points and 10 rebounds since Oliver Morton scored 34 and grabbed 12 rebounds at Appalachian State on Jan. 29, 2000.
"A lot of props to coach," Mason said. "He kept running plays for me and giving me the ball, and that gave us the push we needed to get over the top."
Contact David Uchiyama at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 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 ...
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