Coleman leads Samford past Mocs in SoCon opener
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Samford put the basketball in the hands of point guard Justin Coleman on Saturday against the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
It was a good decision. Coleman had a season-high 28 points and six assists, and the Bulldogs shot 62 percent from the field while holding UTC scoreless for nearly nine minutes in the second half of a 73-56 win in the Southern Conference opener for both teams.
The Mocs (6-8) will host Western Carolina on Thursday.
The 5-foot-10 Coleman, a transfer from Alabama, made 12 of 16 shots against the Mocs, a number of them layups in the paint over taller defenders.
“He’s an experienced guard that’s played at the highest (collegiate) level,” said UTC point guard Rodney Chatman, who scored a team-high 15 points with a career-high five 3-pointers. “We have a lot of young guys who haven’t been in that position before, and he’s a good guard who can finish around the basket and shoot the midrange (jump shot). He did a good job, but defensively we’ve got to be better.”
UTC played without freshman forward James Lewis, who suffered a shoulder injury against Georgia State on Dec. 23. In his absence, Joshua Phillips — who had missed the three previous games due to a violation of team rules — made his first start since Nov. 17, 2015, while playing for Middle Tennessee State. He had 12 points and five rebounds in 31 minutes.
Nat Dixon and Makinde London each scored 10 points. London fouled out with 6:29 remaining but grabbed a team-high seven rebounds in his 23 minutes.
The Bulldogs played without point guard Christen Cunningham, who was sick, and junior forward Wyatt Walker, a threeyear starter at post. It didn’t matter, though, as they shot 71 percent from the field in building a 41-30 halftime lead.
The Mocs scored on the first three possessions of the second half, including two 3s by Chatman, the second cutting the margin to 47-41. The Samford lead was 10 (57-47) after a 3 by Dixon with 12:16 remaining, but by the time he hit the second of two free throws with 3:47 remaining, the margin was 21.
“We weren’t scoring and not getting stops at the same time,” UTC coach Lamont Paris said. “It was a long stretch, and we were playing a lot of different guys and we didn’t score. Sometimes it’s basketball. Sometimes you don’t score — plenty of people do that. It’s basketball; sometimes it happens. Guys are young, they’re inexperienced sometimes in some scenarios, and they’re improving, getting better.
“They need to continue to improve and get better, but there was no magic to it tonight. We were missing; they were making.”
Eric Adams had 11 points for Samford.
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