Basketball

Mocs Beat Herd At Roundhouse, 96-85, MU 0-3 On Road

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HUNTINGTON — Well, if nothing else, the Herd played its best game on the road this year — but the road this time was the “Roundhouse” at Chattanooga, and many a Herd team has gone down when playing a game in the southern most city in Tennessee. Behind senior Tre McLean scoring a career best 35 points in the game, the Mocs beat the Herd, 96-85 for the fifth time overall, back to a game in 2010, a non-conference game in 1997 and the final two meetings in the Southern Conference.

Those wins include that overtime thriller in the SoCon title game in Greg White’s first year as head coach at Marshall – where Johnny Taylor missed so bad, Chris Mims easily put it back in for the 71-70 overtime win – but I digress. McLean had a monster night, hitting 11-of-17 shooting, 3-of-4 from three and 10-of-13 from the line to lead the Mocs.

McLean said he was not aware he was pushing up a new career night of scoring as it was happening, he just trusted his team. “No. Not really. My teammates just tell me to do whatever it takes to win,” McLean said. “They have unbelievable confidence in me. We love each other. While I’m out there, I’m just playing the game. It could be anyone’s night, and tonight was just my night.”

The Mocs now lead the all time series, 29-19, after the 48th meeting with Marshall and now have won 17-of-22 games with MU in the Roundhouse, a.k.a. McKenzie Arena, in front of a noisy crowd of 3,064. For prospective, NCAA Tournament teams at Marshall have lost three games in a row there, in the years of 1984-through-1987, and the Herd has now lost the last three games in a row in Chattanooga, in 2016 and in 1997 twice (once in the 1996-97 year and the following season, 1997-98, when Marshall left for the Mid-American Conference).

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Chattanooga senior forward Tre’ McLean scored 35 points, hitting 11-of-17 from the field, 3-for-4 from three and 10-of-13 from the line, getting past Milan Mijovic (No. 50) and Stevie Browning (No. 2) of Marshall. (Courtesy of Chattanooga Athletics, by Dale Rutemeyer and Frank Mattia)

This Chattanooga team scored 63 points in the second half, after scoring only 33 in the first half. The Herd actually led by as much as 13 points early, and had a 41-33 lead at halftime, but the Mocs biggest lead came with just seconds left in the game.

The second half comeback came for the Mocs due to senior 6-10 center Justin Tuoyo and senior point guard Greg Pryor combined to score 31 points — all in the second half. Tuoyo added in six rebounds and five blocked shots to his points (5-of-5 from field, including 1-for-1 from three), McLean also added five rebounds and five steals to his career best scoring night and Pryor had four assists and one steal.

UTC coach Matt McCall — who worked 10 years for Billy Donovan when the former Herd head coach was at the University of Florida — was happy with his team’s responding in the second half. He was very happy with the McLean career night.

“I think anytime you’re playing the game, things aren’t going to go your way. I thought in the first half I did a poor job in some areas, calling ball plays, putting our guys in the right spot offensively to score,” McCall said. “We made some adjustments in the second half that I thought really helped us offensively and we scored 63 points. We made those adjustments and made some free throws, it’s just a mental thing. It’s just a different level of focus, but I thought our energy level in the second half was the difference.

“(McLean) is everything you want in a player. 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 (McLean) is one of the best players to ever come through this program.”

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Ryan Taylor drives for two of his 15 points in the game, drawing the foul from Chattanooga center Justin Tuoyo, who scored 16 points, all in the second half. (Courtesy of Chattanooga Athletics, by Dale Rutemeyer and Frank Mattia)

Sophomore Makinde London added 13 points, four rebounds, two assists, two steal and one block for the now 7-2 Mocs. The Thundering Herd loses its third road game and falls to 5-3 on the season, with all wins coming at home. The Herd will be home Saturday, Dec. 10, for a match-up with another former conference foe, the MAC’s Toledo Rockets, at 7 p.m. in the Cam Henderson Center.

The Mocs shot 39 free throws in the game, but made only 27 of them — with most of that also coming in the second half for a 69.2% shooting night at the line. Marshall shot 10 less at the line, making 21-of-290 (72.4%).

Coach Danny D’Antoni of Marshall thought his team played well enough to win. “They shot 39 free throws in the game,” D’Antoni told Steve Cotton on the Thundering Herd/IMG Network. “It is difficult to win when they get to do that, and this is an NCAA team from last season, 29 wins last year (a UTC record) and all of their senior starters back. We set this challenging schedule up with a purpose, to get us ready to try and win Conference USA and get to the NCAA Tournament.

“Still, I thought we outplayed them except for 3-to-4 key plays we didn’t make, and that could have turned it around. I have seen worse since I’ve been here, and we still don’t have Terrence Thompson (abdominal injury) and CJ (Burks, out with grades until Dec. 19th end of the semester) not too far down the road. Right now, we are a little thin. But Adjin Penava played well (for Thompson).”

Penava played 12 minutes before fouling out with five fouls as well as nine points, but the big story for the Herd was Jon Elmore nearly turning a triple-double, missing by one rebound. Elmore — who the Chattanooga announcer talked about quite a bit in reference to his father, Gay, an outstanding scorer for VMI on the Southern Conference Digital Network, that carried the game for free — had 27 points, 12 assists (five more than his previous season high of seven) and nine rebounds in the game, playing nearly every minute of the game.

Elmore was the leading scorer, or tied for the lead, for the sixth game in a row, and has scored 20 points or more in 5-of-8 games, including 5-of-the-last-6. Tonight was the third career double-double and his first of this season.

All three Herd seniors were in double-digit points, including point forward Ryan Taylor, who scored 15 points, pulled eight rebounds, had two blocks and one assist; shooting guard Stevie Browning, who had 11 points, two steals and one assist and steal; and small forward Austin Loop, who had 10 points, two rebounds, one assist and steal. They all played 29 minutes or more, something Coach D’Antoni wants to change.

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Austin Loop looks for, and gets, defensive help from Ryan Taylor, as Chattanooga guard Nat Dixon drives to the basket. (Courtesy of Chattanooga Athletics, by Dale Rutemeyer and Frank Mattia)

“I really though we outplayed them, except for some silly plays we made,” D’Antoni said. “We are young … well, in the fact we are having to use Penava a lot, and he didn’t play last year, as well as freshmen like Ky’re Allison and Phil Bledsoe a lot, a lot more than I want to. We are playing Jon too much, but CJ will help in a couple of games. We are playing Ryan too much (38 minutes), but Thompson will be back soon. It was a much better effort than Eastern Kentucky, and we have a good Toledo team coming in Saturday, so we need the Herd fans there Saturday.”

Chattanooga won the rebounding battle, 33-to-29, and 52 fouls were called on the teams, with MU getting 27 and UTC 25. Marshall shot 50% in the second half (13-of-26), and 48.2% for the game (27-of-56), but the Mocs shot even better. Chattanooga hit 32-of-55 (58.2%) for the game, but in the 63-point second half hit 67.86%, 19-of-28, and 22-of-25 from the line in the second half (88%), 27-of-39 (69.2%) after hitting just 5-of-14 in the first half.

UTC won points in the paint, 46-to-32, and bench points, 16-to-12. The teams tied at 22-22 for points off turnovers, and Marshall won the second chance points, 12-to-10. The score was tied three times and the lead changed seven times total. The Herd had 17 turnovers, to just 13 for the Mocs.

Tuoyo talked about how hard both teams played in this game. “(It was) one of the hardest games I’ve ever played in,” Tuoyo said. “That’s a tough team, competitive, great talent, great coach. The crowd was unbelievable tonight. That’s what you want to be a part of every night you step out. The fact that it went down like that, that’s what you play ball for. It was just a great night.”

Chattanooga will return the trip to Huntington next year, and hopefully this series can be extended past what will be the 49th meeting all-time next season. Plus, UTC will not have Pryor, Johnathan Burroughs-Cook (2 points, a rebound), Tuoyo, Casey Jones (season high 12 points, 4 rebounds) and McLean, as all are seniors — scoring 80 of the Mocs’ 96 points tonight.

About Woody Woodrum

Senior Editor and columnist/writer for Herd Insider since 2003, with Kindred Communications on radio for Marshall football/men's basketball pregame and postgame shows since 1996 and with First Sentry Bank Sportsline (Also Scott on Sports, Sideline Sports and Herd Insider Sportsline) since 1997. Married to Liz (12-22-1990) and one son, Tre' (11-7-1997). National Sportswriters & Sportscasters West Virginia Broadcaster of the Year winner for radio, 2000; won W.Va. Broadcasters Best Talk Show in 2013 with co-host Paul Swann and W.Va. Broadcasters Best Play-by-Play in 2015 with Jason Toy (Huntington at South Charleston, state AAA semifinals). Member of (College) Football Writers Association of America, (College) Basketball Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. Color commentator for Marshall football (1999-2000), for Marshall basketball (2004-2016) and Marshall baseball (2004-2016). Color for high school football at Spring Valley (1999-2008), Cabell Midland (2009-2012) and Huntington (W.Va.) High School (2013-2016).

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