SPARTANBURG, S.C. — Wofford’s recent scoring woes went right out the window Saturday evening at Benjamin Johnson Arena, and a sluggish-looking Chattanooga team paid the price.
The offensively challenged Terriers, who scored just 33 points in Thursday’s loss at Samford, erupted in their 78-58 victory over the visiting Mocs (11-16, 6-8 SoCon), bringing an end to UTC's brief, two-game winning streak.
“We were just a step slow tonight,” Chattanooga coach John Shulman said. “A step slow in everything that we did.”
Sophomore Karl Cochran scorched UTC throughout the painful defeat, particularly from deep. He dropped a career-high 30 points while knocking down six 3-pointers. Wofford shot the lights out from beyond the arc—11-for-22 (50%)—while only committing nine turnovers against Chattanooga's full-court pressure defense.
“I felt like we wore ourselves out trying to pressure too much,” UTC junior Z. Mason said. “We’ve played five games in 10 days, and we’ve been pressing in all of those games. Maybe fatigue has set in; maybe it has or hasn’t hurt us, but we weren’t really effective with it tonight. We have to execute better if we’re going to run it; create more turnovers."
Not only was the Mocs' press ineffective, they also had no answer for the Terriers’ pack-it-in-approach at the other end.
Wofford did its best to take away any inside looks from Chattanooga, and the team simply didn’t make enough outside shots to keep them in the game. The Mocs, who trailed 45-27 at the break, finished 18 of 54 from the field (33.3%), while hitting just 5 of 22 from 3-point range (22.7%).
“We were just disoriented and discombobulated from the start,” Shulman said. “We knew we were going to have to make shots, but when you don’t have any legs, you’re probably not going to make shots. They made them and we missed them.”
With the exception of Mason’s scoring spurt early in the second half, UTC didn’t appear in any kind of rhythm offensively.
Mason, who finished with a team-high 24 points, scored 10 straight for Chattanooga to start the period, and the 6-5 forward added a jumper with 14:49 left to bring the Mocs to within 50-41.
That was as close as they’d come, though.
“Give credit to Wofford; they punched us back in the second half,” Mason said. "We put ourselves in position. Cutting it to single digits after being down (20), that’s big, but if you give up an eight- or 10-point run that puts you right back where you were.”
Wofford sophomore Jerrell Byrd knocked down a pair of free-throws to stretch the margin back to double digits with 14:36 to play, sparking an 11-4 run and ending Chattanooga’s last-ditch effort at the comeback.
Byrd scored 13 points on 4 of 5 shooting for the Terriers (11-17, 5-10), while sophomore Indiana Faithfull and senior Taylor Wagener each added nine.
“It’s just how it happens sometimes,” UTC sophomore Gee McGhee said. “One night you have a great night, the next night might be horrible. That’s just basketball, but the best thing about it is that it doesn’t stop bouncing. The only thing we can do is just get better as a team.”
McGhee had 13 points to go along with his team-high seven rebounds for Chattanooga, while freshman Eric Robertson finished with seven points and two assists in the losing effort.
“Taking two days off will be the best thing in the world for us; Getting fresh, getting excited and getting ready to finish strong," Shulman said. “I’m not going to let (the loss) zap us, but I’m going to take a look at it on the way home and see if we can’t make some adjustments.”
Michael Murphy covers UTC athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelNooga.