Chattanooga (8-13, 3-5) at Georgia Southern (9-12, 3-5)
Saturday, Feb. 2, 7:30 p.m. ET
W.S. Hanner Fieldhouse (4,358) • Statesboro, Ga.
Radio: ESPN 105.1 FM
Series Record: Chattanooga leads 29-17
Probable Chattanooga Starters:
F-Lance Stokes, 6-6, 217, SO (3.4 ppg, 1.5 rpg, .600 FG%)
F-Z. Mason, 6-5, 238 SO (14.3 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 1.0 bpg)
C-Drazen Zlovaric, 6-9, 220, SR (8.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, .486 FG%)
G-Ronrico White, 6-3, 170, SO (9.9 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2.8 apg, 1.1 spg)
G-Gee McGhee, 6-5, 200, FR (10.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.6 apg, 1.5 spg)
Key reserves: Martynas Bareika (6-4, 208, SO); Sam Watson (6-7, 245, JR); Farad Cobb (6-0, 160, FR); Eric Robertson (6-4, 191, FR); Jared Bryant (6-7, 240, SO)
Probable Georgia Southern Starters:
F-Tre Bussey, 6-2, 175, JR (10.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 1.2 apg)
F-Eric Ferguson, 6-7, 210, JR (14.1 ppg, 7.2 rpg, .477 FG%)
C-Kameron Dunnican, 6-8, 215, SO (1.5 ppg, 2.2 rpg)
G-C.J. Reed, 6-3, 191, SR (12.1 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 3.7 apg)
G-Cleon Roberts, 6-5, 177, FR (8.2, 2.1 rpg, 1.0 spg)
Key reserves: Cameron Baskerville (6-7, 230, SR); Brian Holmes (6-1, 185, JR), Marvin Baynham (6-6, 217, JR)
The opening tip
Chattanooga has enjoyed plenty of time to rest up this week after the team’s 77-69 setback at UNC Greensboro on Sunday, which dropped UTC into last place in the Southern Conference North Division.
During their six-day layoff, the Mocs learned they’ll be without the services of senior point guard Dontay Hampton for the remainder of the season. Sophomore Ronrico White will fill in at the point for the fifth-year senior, who underwent season-ending ACL surgery on Thursday, while sophomore Lance Stokes should get his first start of the season at the three spot.
Stokes, who broke his foot in UTC’s 77-65 loss to Southeast Missouri earlier this season, missed nearly two months of action before finally returning to the court for the Mocs’ 91-88 overtime win over Appalachian State on Jan. 17. The 6-6 forward played a season-high 22 minutes Sunday at UNCG, and he’ll likely get the nod Saturday.
With the absence of Hampton, one of the team’s main scoring threats, head coach John Shulman has called for even more out of his leading scorer Z. Mason (14.3 ppg). Mason has three double-doubles in the last four games, including a 23-point, 11-rebound performance against the Mountaineers, but the Mocs will be leaning on him even more the rest of the way.
Georgia Southern is coming off an 81-74 setback at Furman on Thursday. The Eagles, who have dropped two of their last three on the road, haven’t won at home since knocking off College of Charleston 51-47 on Jan. 17. Two days before that, they took down Davidson 70-57 at W.S. Hanner Fieldhouse.
Junior Eric Ferguson is GSU’s leading scorer (14.1 ppg), and the 6-7 forward also leads the team on the glass (7.2 rpg). Senior guard C.J. Reed (12.1 ppg), a transfer from UCF, and junior forward Tre Bussey (10.3 ppg) are also averaging in double figures.
Chattanooga head coach John Shulman on the team’s upcoming opponent: “They beat Virginia Tech, they beat Charleston and they beat Davidson, and we have just about the same league record as them. They’re athletic, they’ve got a potential first-round pick in (Eric) Ferguson, they’ve got the former MEAC Player of the Year in (C.J.) Reed. They’re talented, they’ve got great size and it’s always tough playing down there.”
Only three games separate the Southern Conference North Division from top to bottom. Elon, which delivered an 85-61 home win over the Mocs last week, sits atop the standings at 7-2. Samford is second at 5-3, followed by Western Carolina (5-4), Appalachian State (4-5), UNCG (4-5) and Chattanooga (3-5). ... Saturday’s contest ends the first half of UTC’s SoCon slate. The team played six of its first nine league games on the road, and it’ll play six of their final nine at McKenzie Arena to conclude the season. ... The Mocs are 30-18 all-time against GSU, but they’ve dropped three straight to the Eagles, including last season’s 76-70 loss in the SoCon Tournament. ... Mason is averaging 16.4 points and 7.0 rebounds over the last 13 games. During that span the 6-5 junior has shot 77 of 154 from the field (48.7 percent), 12 of 33 from beyond the arc (36.4 percent) and 51 of 67 (76.1 percent) from the free-throw line. ... GSU head coach Charlton Young, a member of Shulman’s inaugural staff at UTC, has compiled a 38-77 record in four seasons at Georgia Southern. ... GSU is shooting 42.6 percent from the field, 34.0 percent from 3-point range and 66.8 percent from the free-throw line.
Michael Murphy covers UTC athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelNooga.