UTC Wins Dr. Pepper Classic

Z. Mason Jars Utah Valley in Final

Saturday, December 29, 2012 - by B.B. Branton

Chattanooga men's basketball coach John Shulman made a deal with Mocs junior Z. Mason before tonight’s Dr. Pepper Classic final.

“I told Z. that if you (and your teammates) bring home the first place trophy, then the team gets a day off from practice on Sunday.”

Now known as a big time deal maker, Mason – selected as the tournament most valuable player - led the Mocs to a 76-69 triumph against Utah Valley and the program’s 15th first place trophy in 23 years with career-highs in points (26) and steals (3) and a career-tying effort (13) on the boards.

Coach Shulman needed all that Mason could offer, along with Ronrico White’s 11 points, three assists and Gee McGhee’s 11 points and nine rebounds to help counter a hot-shooting night from Utah Valley’s Holton Hunsaker. The 6-0 junior guard had a career scoring night with 37 points, including 8 of 15 from 3-point land (7 in the second half), plus three assists and two steals.

“To me a win feels best when I wake up in the morning and say was I dreaming that win and know that it was real,” said Shulman. “And now I can get some sound sleep and the players feel better about themselves which is very important.”

In a game with four ties and eight lead changes and good scoring runs by both teams, Mason’s 10 points in a five minutes stretch midway through the second half was a key factor in the win.

With the Wolverines (7-9) leading 50-47 at 12:07, Mason then scored 10 of  the Mocs (5-8) next 12 points as the Blue and Gold went from down three to up four (60-56) at 6:31.

But with the victory far from secure, the Mocs needed more from Mason – 7 of 8 free throws in the final 2:15 – and his key block and then rebound of the hot-handed Hunsaker’s shot in the lane in the final seconds with the Mocs up by five, 74-69, helped put two hands on the trophy.

“I told our players that one team would leave here 2-0 and a couple would be 1-1 and one with no momentum at 0-2,” Shulman stated.  “It’s great that we leave here feeling good and having some belief and some momentum.”

Good Free Throws: “You can’t teach confidence and we stepped up big at the free throw line tonight as Gee (McGhee) was 9 of 12, including 4 of 6 in the final minute.” Shulman stated. “Gee shot lots of free throws earlier today and that work was evident tonight.”

Mocs Have Good First Half:

Led by a strong showing from the bench (14 points, 7 rebounds), the Mocs led 30-27 at half.

Alex Bran and Eric Robertson, each had one,3-pointer and led the reserve attack with five points each.

UTC opened with two quick baskets for a 4-0 lead and led 14-9 at 12:48 on a layup by Jared Bryant before the Wolverine shooting came alive and made an 11-2 run for a 20-16 advantage at 8:37 on a layup by Alfonzo Hubbard.

That’s when the Mocs’ bench took over with a 12-3 run, which included consecutive 3-pointers from Bran and Robertson, for a 28-23 lead at 4:05 before intermission

A Drazen Zlovaric put back at 2:00 gave the hosts their largest lead at 30-23 before the Wolverine’s  Hunsaker hit on back-to-back hoops to narrow the Mocs lead to three, at 30-27.

Hunsaker Preview: That was a preview of what was to come in the second half as Hunsaker ripped the cords with four, 3s, a 2-pointer and three free throws (17 points in less than eight minutes) and a 48-47 Utah Valley lead at 12:24. Mason then took over for UTC.

First Half Highlights: Drazen Zlovaric led with 8 points  … the Mocs bench outscored UV reserves, 14-4 (20-7 for the game).

Battle on the Boards: Mocs led on the boards, 24-13, and 11-3 on the offensive glass in the first 20 minutes (48-33 for the game and 21-8 on offensive boards).

Nick Thompson Held in Check: The 6-9 UV senior had a triple, double Friday night(13 pts., 10 rebs., 12 assists), but in the first half against the Mocs was limited to four points, no rebounds and no assists …on the night, he had nine points, four rebounds and two assists

All-Tournament Team & MVP
High Point- John Brown

Austin Peay- Anthony Campbell

Utah Valley- Nick Thompson, Holton Hunsaker

Chattanooga- Ronrico White

MVP- Chattanooga- Z.Mason

Last Time Three in a Row – History Repeats Itself: The Mocs have now won three in a row for the first time in a year as the 2011-12 team defeated Hiwassee (95-41, Dec. 21, 2011) followed by Dr.Pepper wins against Longwood (85-50) and Utah Valley (74-59), Dec. 29-30, 2011.

This year’s trio shows Reinhardt (108-78) on Dec. 21, followed by High Point (68-61) and Utah Valley (76-69), Dec. 28-29.

Next Up: The Mocs travel to Ga. Tech Jan.2 and then open Southern Conference play with three straight road games with Samford, The Citadel and Western Carolina (Jan. 5-10-12).

A year ago, the Mocs lost to Tennessee after winning the Dr. Pepper Classic, followed by three straight SoCon wins at home.

Three Wins to be No.2 all-time: UTC's John Shulman (137-135) needs three wins to pass Ron Shumate (139-61) and be No.2 on the Chattanooga men's basketball all-time coaching wins list ... First on the list is Mack McCarthy at 243-122 ... Shulman passed Leon Ford (129-123) last season.

CHATTANOOGA 76, UTAH VALLEY 69

UTAH VALLEY (7-9)
Hunsaker, Holton 12-22 5-5 37; Hubbard, Alfonzo 6-16 0-0 12; Thompson, Nick
3-8 2-4 9; Brown, Taylor 2-4 0-2 6; Aird, Ben 0-2 2-2 2; Johnson, Jason 0-4
2-2 2; Jones, Zach 0-1 1-2 1; Sinclair, Will 0-0 0-0 0; Enos, Keawe 0-0 0-0
0. Totals 23-57 12-17 69.


CHATTANOOGA (5-8)

MASON, Z. 8-15 9-12 26; WHITE, Ronrico 4-14 0-0 11; McGHEE, Gee 1-5 9-12 11;
BRAN, Alex 4-7 0-0 9; ZLOVARIC, Drazen 4-8 0-1 8; ROBERTSON, Eric 2-3 0-0 5;
BAREIKA, Martynas 0-4 2-2 2; BRYANT, Jared 1-1 0-1 2; WATSON, Sam 1-1 0-1 2;
COBB, Farad 0-5 0-0 0. Totals 25-63 20-29 76.
Utah Valley...................   27   42  -   69
Chattanooga...................   30   46  -   76
3-point goals--Utah Valley 11-30 (Hunsaker, Holton 8-15; Brown, Taylor 2-4;
Thompson, Nick 1-4; Johnson, Jason 0-3; Jones, Zach 0-1; Hubbard, Alfonzo
0-3), Chattanooga 6-24 (WHITE, Ronrico 3-8; BRAN, Alex 1-3; ROBERTSON, Eric
1-2; MASON, Z. 1-4; COBB, Farad 0-4; BAREIKA, Martynas 0-1; McGHEE, Gee
0-2). Fouled out--Utah Valley-Thompson, Nick, Chattanooga-None.
Rebounds--Utah Valley 33 (Aird, Ben 13), Chattanooga 48 (MASON, Z. 13).
Assists--Utah Valley 18 (Brown, Taylor 4; Aird, Ben 4), Chattanooga 12
(BRAN, Alex 3; WHITE, Ronrico 3). Total fouls--Utah Valley 23, Chattanooga
13. Technical fouls--Utah Valley-None, Chattanooga-None. A-2534
Championship Game of the 2012 Dr Pepper Classic

contact B.B. Branton at William.branton@comcast.net


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