Chattanooga (2-6, 0-1 SoCon)
It's not been an easy road for the young Chattanooga basketball team thus far in the 2012-13 season.
The Mocs are off to just a 2-6 start on the campaign. This includes a drop of their only Southern Conference game of the season in an 81-55 home loss to Davidson back on Dec. 3rd.
The Mocs have picked up wins against Tennessee Temple (88-53) and Kennesaw State (65-51), while losses have come against Davidson (81-55), No. 7 Kansas (69-55), Southeast Missouri (77-65), Louisiana Tech (71-63), Eastern Kentucky (63-52) and Troy (68-61).
Despite the early struggles, the Mocs have been impressive at times this season. In the 14-point loss to No. 7 Kansas, the Mocs did particularly well to hang within the 10-12 point deficit range throughout the game.
The Mocs are coming off a 2011-12 season which was among the hardest ever for both fans and the coaching staff. Considering that Chattanooga has won 10 past Southern Conference titles, the Mocs' record of just 11-21 along with its last place finish in the SoCon's North Division was a bitter disappointment.
Impressive Young Backcourt:
One of the most-highly touted freshman talents in the SoCon coming into the season was considered to be Casey Jones (4.4 PPG, 3.8 RPG) of Chattanooga. The Mocs' guard was expected to spell Dontay Hampton off the bench in a reserve role at the point. However, injuries have put Jones in the Mocs' starting five, and the true freshman talent has had to learn much on the run this season for the Mocs.
Athletic and quick, Jones has a bright future in the Mocs Blue and Gold as the 6'5" point guard gives the Mocs a size advantage against most teams at the point guard position. This season, Jones enjoyed his best offensive performance against Louisiana Tech, posting eight points to go with five rebounds and three assists. His 11 assists on the team rank third on the team through the first eight games.
Freshman wing guard Gee McGhee (9.9, 2.0 RPG) is the other true freshman player from The Pelican State. Thus far, McGhee has acquitted himself as one of the league's top freshman this season as he's averaging right on the cusp of double figures through the first eight games.
Like Jones, McGhee provides an athletic scoring punch on the perimeter and is a player who creates scoring opportunities off the dribble. McGhee's play has particularly been strong as of late, as he's averaged 13.8 PPG and 2.0 RPG over the last four games.
McGhee is second on the team in three-pointers made this season, having posted 10 treys this season. In four of eight games through his collegiate career thus far, McGhee has scored in double figures, including three out of his last four games. His top performance of the season was a 19-point effort in the setback to Louisiana Tech.
Farad Cobb (5.9 PPG, 2.8 RPG), a 6'0", true freshman guard from West Palm Beach, Florida, has been a solid performer off the Chattanooga bench this season. He's also the team's top perimeter threat, having canned 12 treys on the season.
Cobb, a streak shooter, singlehandedly kept the Mocs within striking distance of the Kansas Jayhawks in that early-season clash with seven triples in the contest, including six in the opening half. His 21-point performance against Kansas is easily the top performance of his young career.
Post Players With An SEC Flavor:
Last season, Mocs fans were introduced to Z. Mason (11.0 PPG, 7.1 RPG) and Drazen Zlovaric (9.9 PPG, 6.6 RPG), who transferred into the Chattanooga basketball program from Ole Miss and Georgia, respectively. Both have helped the Mocs to continue their tradition of great placement in the low post, established over the years by talents such as Johnny Taylor, Derrick Kirce and Mindaugas Katelynas (just to name a few).
Mason, a transfer from Ole Miss (where he played on the football team as a backup tight end), has been a force in the paint early on this season. He's the only Mocs player averaging in double figures through the first eight games of the season, while his 7.1 boards per game also leads the club.
Mason has five double-figure scoring games this season, including three straight double-figure efforts to open the season. His 16 points in the season-opening win over Tennessee Temple remain his season high.
Zlovaric transferred into Chattanooga from SEC East member Georgia last season. The native of Novi Sad, Serbia came into the season as the Mocs' leading returning scorer (10.2 PPG) and rebounder (6.4 RPG), and in fact was the lone returning starter from last season's 11-win club.
Zlovaric is one of two seniors on John Shulman's 2012-13 roster, and enjoyed his most outstanding performance of the season in a loss to Troy with 11 points and 10 boards. His 51.7% clip from the field ranks seventh in the league after eight games.
LSU and Mercer:
The young Mocs travel to LSU on Tuesday night for a clash with undefeated SEC West foe LSU (5-0), then will return to the McKenzie Arena on Saturday to host Atlantic Sun foe Mercer (5-5).
When the Mocs face LSU on Tuesday night, it will mark the first-ever meeting between the Mocs and Tigers. Another point of interest is that LSU is the lone SEC opponent on UTC's slate this season. The Mocs are 24-109 all-time against current SEC members.
The Tigers haven't hit the hardwood yet in the month of December, as they last hit the floor on Nov. 29 in getting a 72-67 win over Seton Hall.
Despite their 5-0 start, the Tigers have had some turmoil as of late. Head coach Johnny Jones suspended sophomore guard Anthony Hickey indefinitely due to a violation of athletic department and university policies. Hickey was one of three players averaging in double figures for the Tigers.
Leading the Tigers offensively this season have been 6'6" wing forward Shavon Coleman (17.4 PPG, 7.6 RPG) and 6'9" power forward Johnny O'Bryant (12.5 PPG, 8.8 RPG). The Tigers were 18-15 last season and were 7-9 in SEC play.
On Saturday, Mercer will be in the Scenic City to take on the Mocs in a 3 p.m. contest. The Mocs lost, 67-56, to Mercer last year in Macon. The Bears have already notched one win against a Southern Conference team this season with a 73-46 win over Furman back on Nov. 25.
The Bears were CIT champions last year and won a school record 27 games. They return four starters from last season's club. Leading the way so far in 2012-13 for head coach Bob Hoffman's Bears is point guard Travis Smith, who is the only Mercer player averaging in double figures so far this season, at 10.5 PPG. Mercer was the preseason consensus favorite to win the 2012-13 Atlantic Sun Title.
Saturday's meeting between the Mocs and Bears will mark the 61st meeting between the teams, with Mercer holding a 32-28 lead in the all-time series. The Mocs avenged one of their two losses to A-Sun foes last season by getting a 65-51 win over Kennesaw State earlier this season.