A big rivalry in the Southern Conference looked like a game of tug a war until the second half, when the East Tennessee State University basketball team could not hold on against current No. 1, Chattanooga Mocs men’s basketball team. Fans flooded the McKenzie Arena on Jan. 16 to watch a predicted great game, and the game did not fail to disappoint. Both entered with four wins in SoCon play, Chattanooga with one loss and ETSU with none. But only one team could leave with win number five.
The second half of the game looked as if UTC knew exactly what they needed to do to get the win in front of their home crowd. The Mocs went on a 11-0 run in the first five minutes of the second half, five of those coming from Tre’ McLean (Charleston, S.C.). McLean scored the final five points with a layup and a 3-pointer that would send the crowd into amazement.
“I told them in the locker room ‘keep playing’,” said Chattanooga Head Coach Matt McCall. “’Don’t play the score clock, but play the game’… and they came out with great energy.”
The offense wasn’t the only thing to get the Mocs going in the second, they also switched defenses to a 1-3-1 zone that seemed to catch the Bucs off balance.
“We’ve worked on that 1-3-1 zone in practice a bunch, we’ve thrown it out here and there but we haven’t used it a lot,” said McCall. “I felt like East Tennessee is a team that’s full of rhythm. Guards like T.J. Cromer and Ge’Lawn Guyn are so terrific off creating their own shots and off the bounce… I wanted to change the momentum and try to get them off balance. Our zone defense was good and it took them off balance and we were able to get on a little run to start the second half and stayed with it.”
The breakout performance from the Mocs McLean could not be forgotten as he scored a career high 29 points and also the most points by a Moc this season. It looked like he struggled to miss, as he shot 67 percent from the field, 57 percent from the 3-point line and 83 percent from the free throw line.
“The last 3-pointer I knew definitely I had a feel for the game… I was in it,” said McLean. “I was playing with confidence. Before every game my coach tell me to believe in myself… that’s been the message to me and my teammates.”
Despite the Bucs not coming out in victory, both teams shot the ball well. ETSU shot 44 percent from the field, 41 percent from the 3-point line and outrebounded the Mocs 34-32.
“Matt is doing a great job, he’s a good coach with a really nice team,” said ETSU Head Coach Steve Forbes. “I hope for this to continue being a really good rivalry… I hope we fill freedom hall when we meet again.”
The Bucs will host Mercer this Thursday at 7 p.m. at Freedom Hall.