Cole­man leads Sam­ford past Mocs in SoCon opener

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - NEWS - BY GENE HEN­LEY STAFF WRITER

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.

Con­tact Gene Hen­ley at ghen­ Fol­low him on Twit­ter @gene­hen­leytfp.

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