CHATTANOOGA (GoMocs.com) - Chattanooga Mocs senior Tre' McLean displayed why the Southern Conference coaches tabbed him Preseason Player of the Year. The Charleston, S.C., native scored a career-high 35 points to lead the Mocs past former arch-rival Marshall Tuesday night in McKenzie Arena.
The Thundering Herd led by as many as 13 in the first half and had a 57-50 advantage on Austin Loop's 3pt at 13:21. McLean scored 12 in a 14-2 run that flipped the score to 64-59 with 9:44 to go on a McLean layup.
Marshall tied it at 70-all on Jon Elmore's layup with 6:09 to play. The Mocs slowly, but surely took control of the game from there. They went up four, only to see it cut back to two. Then back to five before the visitors came back to make a three-point affair, 83-80 with 2:10 remaining.
The Mocs pulled away starting with three McLean free throws 29 seconds later as Elmore fouled him shooting a 3pt just before the shot clock expired. Greg Pryor got the lead to nine with a free throw and back-to-back layups. The latter came picking off a Loop pass taking it coast-to-coast for a 91-82 advantage.
"We kept talking as a staff that it's going to come down to who makes the last run," Coach Matt McCallstated. "I felt like fatigue wasn't a factor for us coming down the stretch. We were able to get stops when we needed to and were able to make baskets when we needed to.
"Those three back-court players (Browning, Elmore, Loop) are terrific, they are going to win a lot of games in Conference USA."
UTC hit its free throws down the stretch. It made nine-of-11 over the final 3 three minutes to secure the 11-point win. All seven wins, the Mocs improved to 7-2, have come by double digits this season. The Thundering Herd dropped to 5-3, 0-3 on the road.
McLean, who also made a career-high five steals, led five in double figures for the Mocs. Justin Tuoyo(16) and Greg Pryor (15) combined for 31 points, all in the second half leading a 63-point effort after intermission. Casey Jones added 12, while Makinde London came off the bench to tally 13.
"[McLean's] everything you want in a player," McCall added. "He is wired the right way, he completely puts winning first. He completely puts his teammates first. You coach guys like him, (Justin) Tuoyo, (Greg) Pryor, (Casey) Jones and everyone else, it's a one-in-a-million type thing as a coach.
"He's is one of the best players to ever come through this program."
Elmore narrowly missed a triple-double with 27 points, 12 assists and nine boards. Ryan Taylor posted 15 points and eight rebounds. Stevie Browning (11) and Austin Loop (10) also reached double digits for the Herd.
Marshall built a 13-point first half exploiting 11 Mocs miscues. It had a 21-7 advantage in points off turnovers heading into halftime. That was flipped in the second frame as the Mocs scored 15 off 11 Marshall mistakes to even the final tally at 22-all.
"I think in the first half, our team kind of had an expectation because of the last few games," McLean shared with the media throng afterwards. "I think this is the first time that it was a real competitive game for us since Tennessee, and it was at home in front of our fans. I think the first half we didn't really do a good job at handling adversity, but at halftime I just told the team 'embrace it and have fun. We might be down, but we're only going to get this opportunity once to come out and play against this team with these fans out here tonight'.
"I think just coming out in the second half we embraced it and came out with the win."
The Mocs are off until Wednesday, December 14, for finals. Next up is Tennessee Wesleyan for Hamilton County Education Day. Tipoff is at Noon on the SoCon Digital Network as well as locally on the airwaves on Real 96.1 FM in Chattanooga. Links to live stats, video (SDN) and audio (Mocs Sports Network) are on GoMocs.com's men's basketball schedule page.