UTC men fall at Morehead State for third loss in four games

Staff file photo by Olivia Ross / UTC men's basketball coach Dan Earl said the Mocs "have to be better defensively" after struggling on that end of the court in Sunday's loss at Morehead State.
Staff file photo by Olivia Ross / UTC men's basketball coach Dan Earl said the Mocs "have to be better defensively" after struggling on that end of the court in Sunday's loss at Morehead State.

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's basketball team's recent struggles continued Sunday, when the Mocs dug themselves into an early hole against host Morehead State and couldn't get out of it in an 87-80 loss to the Kentucky program.

It's the third defeat in the past four games for UTC (5-3), which will try to snap a two-game losing streak when it hosts Tennessee Wesleyan at 2 p.m. next Sunday at McKenzie Arena.

The Mocs have had their share of trouble on offense lately, but that wasn't the case as they scored 80 points and shot respectable percentages from the field (46%) and 3-point range (34% with 11 makes) at Morehead State. Instead, their shortcomings were on the other end of the court, where the Eagles made 58% from the field (72% in the second half) as UTC gave up a season high in points.

"I mean, that's just taking point-blank layups," UTC coach Dan Earl said on the postgame radio broadcast. "We really have to be better at that. We tried to change defenses a little bit, but credit to Morehead, they just played strong. It was tough because they just seem to, when things would slow down, they would just clear it out. It was almost like isolation basketball, and they'd just drive us and finish through us, so we have to get better defensively."

The Mocs trailed 40-36 at the break, but they twice cut the deficit to one early in the second half. Yet every time the Eagles (6-3) — who won the Ohio Valley Conference regular-season title last season and were picked as the preseason favorites this season — were able to stretch the advantage back out.

Morehead State led by as many as 13 points in the second half, with UTC never getting closer than five. The Eagles had four scorers in double figures as Riley Minix and Drew Thelwell had 25 apiece — Minix also grabbed 11 rebounds — Kalil Thomas added 16 and Jordan Lathon chipped in 10.

Jan Zidek led the Mocs with 19 points. Honor Huff added 17 with six assists, while Sam Alexis finished with 12 and matched teammate Randy Brady with five rebounds. The Mocs have five more games in December before tipping off their Southern Conference schedule Jan. 3 at Samford.

"This was a learning experience for our young guys," UTC senior Tyler Millin, who had 11 points, said on the postgame radio broadcast. "Even though we took the loss, we've got to bounce back. We've got to take it on the chin and bounce back."

Contact Gene Henley at [email protected].

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