Head coach John Shulman has to be feeling for Furman’s Jeff Jackson. After all, Shulman and his squad have been in the Paladins’ place for much of the season.
Like the Mocs, Furman has been decimated by injuries, and both have had to rely on young, inexperienced players to carry them through. Actually, the two teams aren’t that dissimilar even today, with one small twist:
Chattanooga’s youngsters aren’t playing like youngsters anymore. The Paladins’ are.
“I don’t feel like a freshman anymore,” UTC’s Gee McGhee said.
It was obvious in Monday’s lopsided win for the Mocs. Their first-year players carried the club to an 83-49 victory, while the Paladins’ freshmen struggled throughout, committing 15 of the team’s 20 total turnovers.
It’s not a shock that McGhee scored a game-high 16 points in the decisive victory, especially considering the thriving freshman’s last seven games (17. 1 ppg), but the play of classmates Eric Robertson and Farad Cobb was a bit more surprising.
Robertson tallied a career-high 14 points on 6 of 11 shooting, including a pair of second-half treys, and Cobb dished out a career-high six assists to go along with his 12 points.
Freshman Casey Jones added a pair of baskets in his first game back from a knee injury, and even walk-on point guard Alex Bran got in on the action, finishing with five points in the final six minutes of the contest.
Furman’s freshmen didn’t fare quite as well.
Stephen Croone scored a team-high 12 points for the Paladins, but the 6-foot guard from Covington, Ga., committed a season-high eight turnovers in the losing effort. Fellow freshmen Kendrec Ferrara and Larry Wideman finished a combined 4 of 14 from the field for 10 points, while Kevin Chuisseau was held scoreless in 10 minutes of action.
“Don’t get me wrong, it’s going to be great for us in the future, but right now it’s very painful,” Furman coach Jeff Jackson said. “Even though their effort is good, their experience, their aptitude, their acumen about some of the things they need to do isn’t there.”
It’s the same message Shulman delivered throughout his team’s sluggish start to the season.
“Now what you have, with young guys—it’s more subliminal than overt—but things can snowball,” Jackson said. “It’s my job right now to protect them; to make sure we’re doing everything we can to get them going in the right direction. They’re going to hurt because they care.”
Fortunately for the Mocs, it looks as though Shulman won’t have to be delivering that message much more.
“I love their young kids; those kids are going to be really good,” Shulman said. “(Furman) lost an awful lot, and they’re half beaten and battered right now, but I was really proud of our freshmen.”
Michael Murphy covers UTC athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelNooga.