published Friday, January 24th, 2014

Oh, Gee!: Long shot helps shoot UTC past Elon, 84-63

Fans erupt in cheers after UTC's Gee McGhee hits a three-quarter-court shot as the first half ends against Elon at McKenzie Arena on Thursday.
Fans erupt in cheers after UTC's Gee McGhee hits a three-quarter-court shot as the first half ends against Elon at McKenzie Arena on Thursday.
Photo by Erin O. Smith /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
  • photo
    UTC forward Z. Mason (30) looks to pass against Elon Thursday at McKenzie Arena.
    Photo by Erin O. Smith /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

First came the "Ker-plunk" sound of the ball hitting the glass and dropping through the net.

Then came the roar of many of the 4,662 in McKenzie Arena who saw Gee McGhee heave in a three-quarter-court shot just before halftime.

It was another surprising moment in a season full of success that has the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga sitting atop the Southern Conference standings after thumping Elon -- the preseason pick to win the league -- 84-63 on Thursday.

"I thought the guy was going to block it, and when it left my hand I thought it would hit the backboard," said McGhee, who scored 13 points as the Mocs improved to 13-8 overall, 7-0 in the SoCon. "I didn't really expect it to go in. I just wanted a good look at it.

"If they hit a shot like that, I'd be, 'I guess it's their night.'"

McGhee's big shot turned out to be No. 1 in ESPN's top 10 plays of the day.

The play started with a missed free throw. UTC junior Lance Stokes pulled the ball off the rim following the miss by Sebastian Koch, passed to McGhee just beyond Elon's 3-point arc, where he avoided contact with Koch and heaved the ball toward the UTC rim.

The last player to hit a shot like that before halftime was recruited to Davidson by current Elon coach Matt Matheny and will start in the NBA All-Star game: Stephen Curry.

The ball hit the square and stayed in the net for an extra split second as UTC's reserves spilled on the floor -- literally in the case of Alex Bran, who tumbled -- and McGhee sprinted to the locker room with teammates following his lead.

"It's a momentum thing," Elon coach Matt Matheny said. "We want to score at the end of the half, and we did. For them to turn around and throw it in, it's a shot. Not only a shot made -- it's a shot that's a dagger."

UTC senior forward Zaccheus Mason delivered daggers and blows throughout the game. Mason, even with 6-foot-10 center Lucas Troutman defending him at times, led all players with 27 points and 11 rebounds.

He scored on traditional post moves. He spun in the lane, he bullied his way, he swished fade-aways and buried a step-back 3-pointer just for good measure as well. Mason recorded his 10th double-double of the season and ninth in his last 10 games. His 11 rebounds helped UTC outglass Elon 35-25.

"Z played phenomenally," coach Will Wade said. "He's a tremendous player -- the best player in the league -- and he played like it today."

Matheny acknowledged Mason's huge impact on the game.

"He's really good," Matheny said. "There were several times in the first half we defended him well and he made shots. In the second half, the biggest buckets he had were offensive rebounds and putbacks."

Junior Ronrico White matched McGhee's 13 points. Koch and Luke Eddy led the Phoenix (10-10, 3-2) with 11 points each. Troutman and Tanner Samson added 10 apiece.

"Chattanooga played very well on both ends, and better than us on both ends," Matheny said. "We struggled in the second half."

UTC survived a sluggish start -- perhaps the Mocs were too amped after trying to get 5,000 fans in the stands and with McGhee judging a dance contest at lunch -- and were down 26-24 with 5:51 to go in the first half. But UTC closed on a 17-6 run, including McGhee's miracle.

"I've been coming to the Roundhouse for about 22 years," Matheny said, "and when the shot goes in at halftime, the place was electric."

The Mocs held off Elon's attack in the early minutes of the second half. An 18-6 run capped by a 3-pointer from Mason followed by a spin-move and foul gave UTC a 67-42 lead on its home court.

"We were better tonight," Wade said. "We played really well. We covered their stuff up.

"I think it's great that we won and we're continuing our momentum."

Contact David Uchiyama at duchiyama@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6484. Follow him at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.

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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