CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (GoMocs.com) ---The Chattanooga Mocs cruised to a 67-52 win today over visiting Furman in McKenzie Arena. Chattanooga is now 15-9, 9-1 in the Southern Conference which keeps it in first-place, a half-game ahead of second-place Davidson.
Casey Jones (New Orleans, La.) led all scorers with 18 points. Martynas Bareika (Kedainiai, Lithuania) added 16, while Z. Mason (Nashville, Tenn.) and Ronrico White (Knoxville, Tenn.) chipped in 10 apiece. Mason posted a double-double adding 13 rebounds as well as five blocks.
Stephen Croone paced the Paladins with 14 points. Kendrec Ferrara added 11 points and nine boards.
Chattanooga's pressure defense was a key in the game forcing 19 Furman turnovers.
"The press was good," Head Coach Will said. "The best it's been all year probably. We've made some adjustments from the first game. When our guys press with energy like that, and we fly out of it back, it works well.
"We forced 19 turnovers and got 10 steals so it was good for us tonight."
The Mocs busted open a nine-point game at the half by scoring on their first four possessions after the break. Mason opened with a dunk off a fast break started by a Gee McGhee (Baton Rouge, La.) block. Bareika sandwiched a Mason jumper with three-point bombs to extend the lead to 17, 38-21, at the 18-minute mark.
Bareika's third trey of the half made it a 22-point game, 45-23, with 13:59 to go capping a 17-4 start over the first six minutes of the second frame. The lead would swell to as many as 24, 63-39, on two Jones free throws with 5:04 to go. The Paladins scored eight of the final 10 pints to carve the margin to 15 for the final score of 67-52.
Mason made history tonight. He became the first player in school history to tally 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 100 blocks in a career with his first basket and block of the game. The two occurred within a minute of each other in the first half. He now has 1,009 points, 592 rebounds and 104 blocks in his two-plus years.
"I don't keep up with the numbers," Mason stated. "I didn't know how close I was in points until Johnny Taylor told me I was a point away on Thursday. I didn't know about the blocks or the rebounds until last night.
"I've just been focusing on getting better day-by-day."
Chattanooga's strong play has not gone unnoticed in the Scenic City. The crowd of 5,023 marked the first time since 1998 the program has had back-to-back crowds exceeding 5,000 and pushed the average attendance to a league-leading 3,875 per game. The last three home games attracted 16,333 eclipses all but two schools in the league totals for the SEASON.
It made an impression on Wade. It's the first thing he spoke of when he sat down for his press conference.
"First off I want to thank the crowd," Wade opened. "I think that was the first time since 1998 we've had back-to-back crowds of over 5,000 people. That was great, that was a big lift.
"I appreciate them coming out and showing faith in us."
Jones scored eight of the Mocs first 10 points before foul trouble limited him to a mere seven minutes in the first half. Furman's Keith Belfield hit a three-pointer at 13:52 to cut the Chattanooga advantage to 10-9.
The home team responded with an 18-2 run capped by a Bareika layup at 3:46 to go up by 17, 28-11. The Paladins fought back scoring the final eight points of the half as Larry Wideman's trey with 53 seconds remaining sending the game into intermission with a 28-19 score.
The Mocs are back on the road next week for two contests. They leave league play on Tuesday night to take on Eastern Kentucky before heading to Samford on Saturday. Both games are 7 p.m., Eastern time starts.
The games can be listened to live on ESPN 105.1 FM the Zone in the Scenic City, or go to the men's basketball schedule page on GoMocs.com for links to video (PPV), audio (free) and live stats. You can follow @GoMocsMBB on twitter for live updates as well.