For the second straight night Chattanooga outrebounded its opponent by double digits and managed to squeeze off more shots from the floor.
At some point those stats are going to start showing up in the form of wins. Or at least head coach John Shulman hopes so.
“They deserve better,” Shulman said. “They deserve to have some positive reinforcement. They’re not getting any right now, so we’ll have to have some real good inner belief in ourselves. Our stats are not equaling our results. They will.”
For that to happen, though, Chattanooga (1-4) needs to cut down on the turnovers. The Mocs committed a season-high 24 in their 71-63 loss to the Bulldogs (4-1) on Tuesday.
Having a starting point guard that’s a converted two-guard hasn’t helped UTC’s ball security this season, and La Tech’s pressure 2-1-2 zone only made matters worse.
“They’re really good at it and they get great pressure,” Shulman said. “That’s what they do; that’s who they are. We’ve got a freshman point guard (Farad Cobb), and our other point guard (sophomore Ronrico White) was our starting two that we moved to point. We’re out there trying to put together a team.”
After Louisiana Tech’s Kenneth Smith missed the front end of a one-and-one with under a minute to play, White brought the ball up the court with his team trailing 66-62. The 6-3 sophomore didn’t make it much further than mid-court, though, before Smith picked his pocket and cashed in on an easy layup at the other end.
“I had some silly turnovers,” White said. “I’m still learning, but I can’t use that as an excuse. I’ve got to be a leader and be a captain for this team. They need me to step up, and that’s what I’m going to do.”
White, who finished with 10 points, committed a team-high four turnovers, while Cobb coughed the ball up three times.
La Tech’s Reheem Appleby scored a game-high 30 points, including a crucial 3-pointer with 2:18 remaining.
“Dominated the game,” Shulman said of the 6-3 guard’s performance. “The biggest shot he hit was a three. We went chasing him out there, he’s shooting (24) percent from the 3-point line, and all we did was chase him out there. That’s all he wanted us to do so that he could put the ball on the floor.”
Appleby shot two of six from beyond the arc, but the sophomore killed the Mocs with floaters and free throws all game long. He finished nine of 16 from the field and his 10 free-throws equalled that of UTC’s entire team.
The Mocs have struggled mightily from the line this season, and Tuesday was no exception. They shot just 10 of 19 (52.6 percent) from the stripe, and none was more critical than senior Drazen Zlovaric’s late-game miss.
The 6-9 center ripped down a rebound in the final minutes and was fouled in the process. He had a chance to trim the Mocs’ deficit to three with 1:28 remaining, but missed the front end of his one-and-one opportunity.
“These kids are playing their guts out for the school and city; they don’t want to miss free throws,” Shulman said. “I was glad Drazen got put in that situation. He had to convert. He didn’t. You learn from it. We’ve all missed tight ones. We’ll fix our free-throw shooting, I’m not worried about it.”
One bright spot for Chattanooga was the play of freshman guard Gee McGhee, and not just from the free-throw line, where he made three of four.
The 6-5, 200-pound Baton Rouge, La., native, finished with a team-high 19 points for his second double-digit scoring performance in the last three games.
Michael Murphy covers UTC athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelNooga.
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