Tuesday was a win-win situation for the Chattanooga Mocs basketball team and several thousand third and fifth graders from Hamilton County at McKenzie Arena.
It was Hamilton County Literacy Day as the biggest crowd of the season and the largest in more than 10 years showed up to witness Chattanooga’s most lopsided victory of the season, a 100-39 win over Division III foe Covenant College.
A total of 8,910 were on hand to witness the mismatch.
Many of UTC’s players have spent time away from the gym in recent weeks reading to these students and emphasizing the importance of academics and athletics. And on Tuesday morning, those same UTC players proved they can do more than read and make new friendships.
The Mocs had won their fourth straight game on the road at Virginia Commonwealth on Saturday when Malachi Smith scored the deciding bucket late in a 56-54 win, but Tuesday’s game was on the opposite end of the scale as this was a mismatch from the start.
Despite the lopsided final score, Chattanooga coach Lamont Paris was really proud of the way his guys played, particularly when the game was out of hand for most of the contest. Paris preaches defense more than anything and he was smiling afterward when he realized that his team had limited the Scots to just 24.2 percent from the field and just 17.9 percent from beyond the arc.
“We’ve had tough games with these guys in the past, so you never know how a game like this will go, but we had to be mature about how we handled it and I was really proud of how it turned out,” Paris said afterward.
“It’s tough to play hard when the game isn’t close, but every role is important and I thought our guys handled it well. I was more concerned about our defense. And I was really happy with how we shared the basketball and how we inspired each other.
“I was also really happy to see such an excited crowd here today. There was so much life and energy from those kids. The impact we’ve had on these young kids is awesome and I wish they could come see us play every time,” Paris added with a smile.
This game was never close as the Mocs raced to a 13-0 lead before the first media timeout was called. Another 13-0 run midway through the first half allowed Chattanooga to extend a 26-10 lead to 39-10 following a layup by Avery Diggs with 5:24 to play in the opening half.
Josh Ayeni scored the final five points of the half, including a 3 from the key just before the horn, to give the Mocs a 48-16 lead at intermission.
The lead only got bigger as Chattanooga scored at will in the second half. Perhaps the biggest question of the day was how soon the Mocs would top the century mark as the kids in attendance started chanting “Five more points” following a jumper from the line by Ayeni with 2:33 to play.
Chattanooga finally reached that magic number when Grant Ledford sank a 3 from the wing with 42 seconds to play, making the final difference 61 points with the 100th point.
It was balanced scoring for the Mocs as six players tallied at least 10 points and a seventh had nine.
Ledford was tops with 18 points, including four of six from long range, while Silvio DeSousa, Smith and Ayeni all finished with 14. Darius Banks and Diggs both finished with 13 points.
Myles Jones was the only Covenant player in double figures as he finished with 14.
The Mocs had a sizeable advantage in every category, including a 52-27 edge in rebounds, 21-2 in points off turnovers, 44-10 on points in the paint, 15-2 on second-chance points, 8-2 in fast breaks and 45-15 from bench scorers.
Ayeni had 10 rebounds to lead the Mocs while DeSousa had eight and A.J. Caldwell seven. Chris Barnette topped Covenant rebounders with seven.
The Mocs return to action at McKenzie Arena on Saturday, playing the second game of a double-header against College of Charleston at 4. That game follows the UTC women, who face Georgia State at 1:30.
COVENANT (39) – Gernatt, Crumly, Palmer 5, Barnette 5, Jones 14, Igbanu 3, Fitzgerald, Pearlman, Kinard, Platt, Hester 5, Hunter, All, Hines 5, St. Germain 2, Witt.
CHATTANOOGA (100) – Banks 13, DeSousa 14, Caldwell 5, Jean-Baptiste 9, M. Smith 14, Ayeni 14, Ledford 18, A. Smith, Diggs 13, Stricklen.
FIELD GOALS: Covenant 15 of 62 for 24.2 percent; Chattanooga 41 of 70 for 58.6 percent.
3-POINT GOALS: Covenant 7 of 39 for 17.9 percent; Chattanooga 12 of 27 for 44.4 percent.
FREE THROWS: Covenant 2 of 4 for 50 percent; Chattanooga 6 of 9 for 66.7 percent.
REBOUNDS: Covenant 27 (Barnette 7, Palmer 3, Igbanu 3); Chattanooga 52 (Ayeni 10, DeSousa 8, Caldwell 7, M. Smith 6, Ledford 6, Diggs 5).
ASSISTS: Covenant 6 (Barnette 2); Chattanooga 23 (M. Smith 6, Diggs 3, A. Smith 3, Caldwell 3, DeSousa 3).
TURNOVERS: Covenant 13 (Jones 2, Igbanu 2, Fitzgerald 2); Chattanooga 8 (Diggs 3, DeSousa 2, M. Smith 2).
STEALS: Covenant 5 (five players with one each); Chattanooga 7 (M. Smith 3).
BLOCKS: Covenant 3 (three players with one each); Chattanooga 1 (DeSousa).
HALFTIME SCORE: Chattanooga, 48-16.
(email John Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org)