published Monday, January 21st, 2013

First-half defense hurting Chattanooga Mocs

UTC’s Gee McGhee (12) brings the ball downcourt in Saturday’s 90-81 loss to Western Carolina.
UTC’s Gee McGhee (12) brings the ball downcourt in Saturday’s 90-81 loss to Western Carolina.
Photo by Jake Daniels.
  • photo
    Western Carolina's Trey Sumler, front right, advances against the Chattanooga Mocs defense during an NCAA college basketball game in Chattanooga.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Defensive problems are becoming common.

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's basketball team lost 90-81 to Western Carolina on Saturday after falling behind by 10 points in the first half.

That's not the first time this season that the Mocs have fallen into a first-half hole. UTC (8-11, 3-3 SoCon) is now 2-10 in 2012-13 when trailing at halftime, and 33-109 in John Shulman's tenure as coach.

This year's two comeback wins came against Appalachian State on Thursday when the Mocs erased a 19-point deficit with 6:36 to play and on Dec. 28 when they trailed 30-27 at halftime against High Point.

"We can't always fight back, and we have to try and take a lead early in a game," said junior forward Zaccheus Mason, who led UTC with 21 points Saturday. "I know we came back Thursday, but you can't do that every night. You have to be able to throw the first punch and start off with consistency."

The Mocs were behind 48-39 at halftime. A second-half rally pulled them within four points, but this time the hole was too deep.

WCU forward Tom Tankelewicz hit five of six 3-pointers in the first eight minutes Saturday. He finished with 21 points by hitting seven of nine 3s.

"I can put on the board that Tankelewicz is a two-star shooter and we can't let him get off," Shulman said. "We have done that."

Shulman then reeled off a list of good players who had great games against UTC. And he hasn't played the trapping "Fire" defense -- which allows for open 3s -- one minute this season.

Tab Hamilton of ASU went 5-of-6 from the arc. Charleston's Anthony Stitt went 3-of-7 but had 20 points. The Citadel forward Matt Van Scyoc shot 5-of-10 from the arc, and Samford's Raijon Kelly hit six of eight 3s against the Mocs.

"We get off to such a poor start defensively," Shulman said. Specifically of Saturday's game, he added, "We were not very alert defensively, we were a step slow and we cost ourselves an unbelievable opportunity."

UTC has surrendered at least 86 points in its last three games -- with an asterisk going next to the ASU game, when the Mocs allowed 78 points in regulation before winning 91-88 in overtime.

"Any time you give up 90 points, you're going to have to fight back," Mason said. "We started off slow early in the game [Saturday], and that's something that we can't allow to happen."

about David Uchiyama...

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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