CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP/WRCB) - Z. Mason scored 14 of his 16 points in the first half as Chattanooga opened a big early lead and coasted to an 88-53 victory over Tennessee Temple on Monday night.
The Mocs, coming off an 11-21 season, scored 12 of the first 13 points in their opener against the Crusaders (2-2), an NAIA Division II squad, and went on to a 46-27 lead at the break.
The game marked the debut of a made-over UTC roster, which features five scholarship freshmen and one new walk-on. The Mocs had two freshmen, Gee McGhee and Casey Jones, in the starting lineup for the first time in the program's Division I history, and at one point used a lineup of three freshmen and two sophomores.
"I am thrilled that we have one game under our belt," said head coach John Shulman. "I am thrilled our freshmen got a chance to go out there and sweat, shoot it off the side of the glass and make a lot of mistakes so we can get that out of our system.
"I said before the game, win or lose, we have to continue to get better. It is nice to win. It is nice for those kids to win."
It wasn't always pretty, but it was a win.
Chattanooga shot 41.4 percent, barely more than Tennessee Temple's 40 percent, but its 49-28 rebounding advantage and 35-18 edge in turnovers helped the Mocs get 70 shots, making 29, while the Crusaders made 18 of 45.
UTC also made just two of 22 attempts behind the 3-point arc.
"Could last year's team go 2-22 from three and win by 35? I don't care who we were playing, the answer is no. We had to shoot it well to win. We don't this year," Shulman said. "We are going to rely on defending and rebounding. If we shoot it well, we win by 50."
Drazen Zlovaric added 11 points and eight rebounds for Chattanooga, which got at least four points from 11 players. Farad Cobb set a new single-game freshman mark with six steals as UTC set a new school single-game record with 23 as a team.
"I guess Coach Shulman knew we would be anxious and wouldn't shoot it as well," Cobb said after his debut. "He just told us to focus on defense and rebound, so that's what I tried to do. I gave good effort on the defensive end and I happened to get some steals tonight."
Mack Hampton scored 12 points and Weedlens Beauvil 11 for Tennessee Temple, which is 0-9 against Chattanooga.
The task will be much tougher the next time out for the Mocs, who travel to face No. 7 Kansas Thursday.
"The goal is to just keep playing hard, play defense and rebound," Mason said. "Those are the simplest things you can do in a basketball game. If we can do that, it will give us a chance against any team that we face this year."
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