CHATTANOOGA (AP/WRCB) - Gee McGhee scored 22 points to lead five players in double figures in Chattanooga's 89-76 victory over The Citadel in a Southern Conference game Thursday.
The freshman, who leads the Mocs in minutes played this season, led five UTC players in double figures and hit key shots and free throws in the final four minutes to help seal the win in the opener of a four-game homestand.
Ronrico White had 19 points and Drazen Zlovaric scored 18 for the Mocs (9-14, 4-6), who snapped a four-game losing streak. They had lost five of their previous six games.
"We were able to score it easier tonight than having to manufacture basket after basket after basket," Shulman said. "We had 44 points at half. We scored 57 the other night at Georgia Southern. That's why you just got to show up every single night and play.
"Our kids went out to play the game with the right mentality, and we're going to keep that mentality until they make us pack our uniforms up.
UTC had trailed by double digits in the first half in each of its previous seven games, so a fast start was the focus.
Zlovaric provided it, scoring eight of his team's first 12 points to help the Mocs open a nine-point advantage just six minutes into the game. Chattanooga never trailed after The Citadel made the game's first basket, and entered halftime with a 44-37 lead.
"It felt great (playing with the lead). We just stayed aggressive the whole game," White said. "We really had it in our minds that we were down ten from the beginning of the game, and it really showed tonight."
Fueled by Z Mason, the Mocs opened with the second half with an 8-3 spurt to push the lead to double figures. The senior forward played just two scoreless minutes in the first half because of foul trouble, but bounced back with all of his 14 points in the final 20 minutes.
"I had to do something because it was no fun sitting on the bench and watching the first half," Mason said. "It as definitely a learning tool, though. I just have to be smart when it comes to defense at the start of the game."
The lead grew as large as 16 on a rim-rocking slam by Mason at the 10:51 mark, but the Bulldogs pulled within striking distance at 80-72 with 4:24 to play.
Chattanooga used a key offensive rebound from Zlovaric to milk more than a minute off the clock on an extended possession that was capped by a McGhee bucket. He then hit five of the Mocs' seven free throws in the final two minutes to put the game away.
"You could definitely tell that the guys were playing a lot more free and loose," Mason said. "We tried to just focus on just having fun and just executing on both offense and defense. We wanted to stay focused on working on what we practiced all week."
P.J. Horgan had a career-high 25 points and 10 rebounds, and Mike Groselle scored 19 for the Bulldogs (6-16, 3-9), who had won two in a row. They lost to the Mocs 70-65 on Jan. 10.
Both teams shot better than 52-percent from the floor, but Chattanooga's high-pressure defense forced The Citadel into 21 turnovers that led to 23 UTC points.
Once a young team that struggled in pressure situations, the Mocs also hit 15-of-20 free throws on the night, including 11-of-14 in the second half.
"These guys have been through a lot. It seems like one thing after another," said Shulman, whose team will close the season with six of its final nine regular season games at home. "We played two home games in January. That's not fair to ask a team to do that, especially a bunch of young guys. But we hung in there, and hopefully we can take advantage of it now.
"I still keep the dream alive. Maybe I'm crazy, but that's who I am."