Too much Mayo leaves sour taste for Mocs

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - PAGE 2 BITS - BY JIM TAN­NER COR­RE­SPON­DENT Con­tact Jim Tan­ner at JFTan­ner@ gmail.com. Fol­low him at twit­ter.com/ JFTan­ner.

A strong first-half per­for­mance on both ends of the court turned sour in the sec­ond half for the Univer­sity of Ten­nessee at Chat­tanooga men’s bas­ket­ball team, which squan­dered a nine-point half­time lead and lost 81-78 to Eastern Ken­tucky in the Mocs’ home opener Satur­day night at McKenzie Arena.

EKU (1-1) was led by se­nior Nick Mayo, who scored 35 of his 40 points in the sec­ond half and added 12 re­bounds to break the Mocs’ hearts af­ter they led by as many as 13 points in the open­ing pe­riod of play.

“We knew what he could do, and we ad­dressed the fact that he’s about to break the school record in scor­ing and he’s a first-team all-league player for three years in a row,” UTC coach La­m­ont Paris said. “We talked about send­ing help and pay­ing at­ten­tion, and we did not do a good job with that at all. That was a dis­ap­point­ment.”

The Mocs (1-1) with­stood the Colonels’ swarm­ing pres­sure early, turn­ing those breaks into easy buck­ets and get­ting Mayo into early foul trou­ble. But once he got go­ing, the Colonels made sure he got the ball of­ten.

“At half­time, we all put an em­pha­sis on get­ting go­ing, and I made some shots and got hot,” Mayo said. “My team­mates saw it, my coach saw it, and I was just able to get the looks that I wanted.”

Mul­ti­ple Mocs got into foul trou­ble and EKU was in the bonus at the freethrow line with more than 14 min­utes to play in the game. The pres­sure also forced UTC into 20 turnovers for the game.

“We had mul­ti­ple guys who did not re­spond to the pres­sure well,” Paris said. “We were get­ting the ball in the back court and mak­ing one drib­ble and pick­ing up the ball. Then you have two guys on you and guys who are open are not in a place where you can re­ceive the ball. We were not as ag­gres­sive as we needed to be to come and get the ball.”

UTC big man Thomas Small­wood — who led the Mocs in the first half with 10 points — picked up his fourth foul with more than nine min­utes re­main­ing. He fin­ished with 12 points be­fore foul­ing out with 2:29 to go.

“I think I did pretty much what I wanted to do in the first half by get­ting the ball and get­ting a cou­ple of fouls on (Mayo) to get him off the court,” he said. “But I think I re­laxed a lit­tle bit around half­time, and he’s a good player. I knew he was go­ing to come at me for the whole game, and I needed to carry on like I did in the first half.”

Fresh­man for­ward Kevin Easley led UTC with 22 points, and fel­low new­comer Mau­rice Com­man­der added 16 points. Easley and Com­man­der each added six re­bounds as well. Ju­nior Jonathan Scott added 10 points to give UTC four play­ers in dou­ble fig­ures. The Mocs shot 47.2 per­cent from the field but were just 9-for-24 shoot­ing in the sec­ond half.

“I think this was just us be­ing young as a team,” Easley said. “I think we learned a lot. This was our first time ac­tu­ally deal­ing with pres­sure. We just need to take bet­ter shots.”

Paris said Mayo’s po­ten­tial to take over the game didn’t come as a sur­prise. He’s clos­ing in on the ca­reer scor­ing record for EKU, and he was coming off a 26-point, 15-re­bound per­for­mance in a loss to Mar­shall on Wed­nes­day. How­ever, the big­ger is­sue for the sec­ond-year UTC coach was the Mocs poor com­po­sure against EKU’s press.

“In the sec­ond half, we weren’t ag­gres­sive and we weren’t at­tack­ing,” he said. “We were ten­ta­tive, and then that’s what the press does. They get a cou­ple of turnovers that turn into buck­ets and then they’re on a run. It just snow­balled on us.”

The Mocs will be back in ac­tion at home Tues­day against Cum­ber­land, and Small­wood thinks they can take lessons from Satur­day’s loss as well as their sea­son-open­ing win at Char­lotte, a win that looks even bet­ter af­ter the 49ers ral­lied for a 66-64 win over Ok­la­homa State on Satur­day.

“I think there’s still a lot of good to take af­ter the win at Char­lotte, es­pe­cially af­ter tonight,” Small­wood said. “As Coach said, we’re go­ing to have to ride the wave a lit­tle bit. It’s not all bad. We’re a young team, and you can learn from losses.

“So as long as ev­ery­one is aware of that, we can learn a lot from tonight. In­clud­ing that a lead at half­time doesn’t mean much.”

STAFF PHOTO BY ROBIN RUDD

UTC’s Kevin Easley scores over Eastern Ken­tucky’s Jor­dan Oak­ley dur­ing Satur­day’s 81-78 loss at McKenzie Arena. Easley led the Mocs with 22 points.

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