The first eight minutes of Thursday night's exhibition game at The MccKenzie Arena gave underdog Tennessee Wesleyan College hope, but host University of Tennessee-Chattanooga took it away in the next five minutes en route to an 82-52 victory over the Bulldogs.
Wesleyan trailed 18-13 at the 11:55 mark, but went scoreless until 6:56 remained in the half while the Mocs reeled off 12 unanswered points and went on to build a 46-23 intermission advantage. The difference in the game between an NCAA Division I member and NAIA Division II club came in two areas that might be expected - turnovers and rebounds. The quicker, taller Mocs forced 27 floor mistakes by the Bulldogs, scoring 30 points off those miscues, and out-boarded TWC 51-39, including 17 on offense which produced 16 second-chance points.
"In games like this, you look for the positives and I thought, at times, we did some good things," said Wesleyan Coach Mike Poe. "I think the guys like to match themselves up against players of this caliber - it's good experience against bigger, stronger folks and I believe fun for them at the same time. We'll learn from it and move on."
Wesleyan senior post Matt Towry opened the game Thursday with a dunk to put TWC up 2-0. Three straight buckets by sophomore Matt Harper, including a 3-pointer, gave the 'Dogs leads of 4-3, 7-5 and 9-8. Those advantages, however, would be TWC's last of the night. The Mocs went up 18-10 before a '3' by junior Jesse Booher cut the deficit to 18-13. The TWC drought followed as UTC went up 30-13 and never looked back.
Harper finished with 12 points and three steals to lead Wesleyan while Towry added 11 to go with a team-high seven rebounds. Senior Andy Cooper had seven points and five boards while freshman post Zack Sherrill grabbed six rebounds. Sophomore E'Jay Ward netted six points and handed out eight assists.
WESLEYAN (52): Kirk 2, Towry 11, Ward 6, Hicks 4, Harper 12, Booher 3, Gray, Powers, Cooper 7,Gregory 5, Sherrill 2.
UTC (82): Wattad 14, Cage 7, Early 4, Jefferson 12, Bell 9, Hampton 6, Odem 5, Smith, Taylor 7, Burroughs 13, Watson 0, Saffore 5.
Wesleyan (1-0) left immediately after the game for Daytona Beach, Fla. where they will participate in the Embry Riddle University Invitational, starting with a matchup against Warner Southern College tonight at 7:30. TWC takes on host Embry Riddle at 4 p.m. Saturday.