Game #9-260: High Point Panthers at Chattanooga MocsDecember 28, 2012 7:00 pm
After the last game between Austin Peay and Utah Valley
ended, more fans arrived for the game between High Point and Chattanooga. There still were not many fans for this game either though. Official attendance was 2,568, and there really were not that many there. Or maybe it just looked like there were very few people there in an arena that seated 11,000. In any case, it was not a great crowd. It is hard to evaluate UTC against the rest of the SoCon in atmosphere when the students were not present for this game only three days after Christmas. UTC had one promotional guy with a microphone who tried to fire up the crowd, which is similar to what South Carolina has done before. But we still had plenty of Chattanooga residents who came out to support their hometown team. But I was not one of them, nor could I pretend to be one of them for the evening. That was because I am a graduate of Chattanooga's opponent High Point. And therefore I would be an odd person there wanting the home team to lose.
Before the first game of the tournament, Ray Curren
asked me how long it took to High Point to travel out here. I really did not know, since I have never traveled from High Point to Chattanooga. All I knew was that it is about six hours from where I live in South Carolina, and figured it would be a similar distance coming from High Point (from checking with Google Maps, my assumption appears to be correct). You just aren't going to get fans coming six hours from High Point to this game. We already have a limited road presence unless there is a student bus trip, and all HPU traveling would be limited three days after Christmas. When Ray first tweeted back to me at the tournament, he mentioned that he should have figured I might be there since High Point was there. But in reality there is no way under normal circumstances I would have considered going to this game, even with High Point playing here. As I have written here before, following a team on the road is tough
. The reason I was here was because I live in South Carolina and have family in southern Illinois. Halfway between SC and Illinois just happens to be Chattanooga, where I would be going through during the holidays. Me and my parents had always talked about how it would be convenient during these family outings to see a sporting event here. These talks mostly revolved around seeing Chattanooga's Class AA pro baseball team play in the summer, but that has never quite worked out. But now I could finally get to a Southern Conference arena I would otherwise not get to (still haven't been to Appalachian State, Western Carolina, or Samford yet).
In some aspects I came not because High Point was here, but despite the fact High Point was here
. I had seen HPU suffer a mid-first half meltdown against Western Michigan less than two weeks prior
. I had also seen an exhibition game before the season started where both John Brown and Adam Weary were ejected for an altercation, leaving me concerned about team discipline. And Matt Cayuela's recap of the EKU game
which came in during the middle of this tournament was all too true. I had already seen High Point twice counting the exhibition prior to this tournament, and will see them four times during conference play not counting the Big South Tournament in March. It's not like I was going to go without seeing HPU play. But this was another game to see, and my Panthers just happened to be in it.
It is weird seeing your team play when they are nowhere near home. Even in most of the High Point away games I attend, the team is usually within a few hours of home, not several. I did attend one High Point game further away from HPU, back in December 2009 when HPU played at Youngstown State, which is close to eight hours north of High Point. That game I also was at through visiting relatives in Ohio around Christmas. That was not a really fun game to be at as a High Point fan. The Youngstown State fans behind me worked the refs, and got angry with me when I was upset at the bad officiating that game. Coach Scott Cherry was also upset at the refs that game and I then had to listen to the YSU fans gleefully heckling Cherry when he received a technical foul. We lost a game in a blowout that should have been competitive, and was not fun to watch. We already have a hard time getting fans for road games, and that makes them less fun to attend. It's like going to see professional wrestling and having a rooting interest in the bad guy. The opposing fans will not be nice, there will be more of them, and they will usually get their way in the outcome of the game. It is definitely a different experience that I doubt most people in Hoops Nation have experienced when rooting for their teams. Our teams often travel several hours away, and unless you have bandwagon support you can easily count your team's fans there. At McKenzie Arena this evening, I could see some of the usual HPU crowd here: members of Cherry's family, other people connected with the team, and a few Panther Club leaders. And they were sitting on the other side of the court from where I was. On my side of the court, my parents were sitting to my right, and they wanted High Point to win. And then there was me. Fortunately the arena was pretty empty, and not many people were in our section in the middle of the arena. And the few Moc fans that were in our section were a pretty quiet bunch. At least I did not have to deal with any diehard UTC fans sitting near me.
But I knew that the biggest problem seeing your team play on the road is the likelihood of a loss. Chattanooga is not having a great season by their standards, but they were at home which High Point was not. The Massey Ratings had HPU actually winning by one, while the Pomeroy Ratings made Chattanooga a slight favorite which seemed more reasonable based on play of late. High Point has also historically struggled playing in large venues like McKenzie Arena as well. And then I saw Allan Chaney, a transfer who is our best player after John Brown, walking around in warm-ups in sweat pants. It turned out that Chaney was feeling sick and would sit out the game. That meant that we would have another game of forcing the ball inside to John Brown all game long. And the game started out very sloppy, with HPU's offense sputtering hoping John Brown would so something. But the UTC offense was also not very good in making shots. To beat High Point, you need to break the press to score in transition or get hot from outside. The Mocs did neither. But High Point was also not doing what it needed to do to win. Chattanooga would eventually get points by beating the press, and take an early lead. But then John Brown was able to create space for himself and get his points. High Point would take the lead late in the first half and narrowly hang on to lead by two at halftime.
But then the dreaded Run would happen at the beginning of the second half. Including the last basket of the second half, Chattanooga would go on a 13-0 run to lead by nine with 15 minutes left. It was not quite like the first half meltdown against Western Michigan, but it still was an important stretch. High Point did recover enough from the Run this time to stay competitive in the game, by returning with a 14-2 run of their own and briefly took the lead again. But it is hard to fully recover on the road from a bad stretch. John Brown did all one player could do, but Brown did not have the backcourt assistance he needed to pull out a win. Chattanooga went back in front midway through the half and this time for good, making shots when they needed to while High Point did not for a 68-61 UTC win.
It is tough watching your team on the road, in part because the traditions of the other fans are not your own as they want your team to lose. Chattanooga's promo guy tried to get fans to stand for the first UTC basket, although it seemed a bit forced unlike other places that do it. I decided to pull a twist on it with few people around me and stood for High Point's first basket. Unfortunately, I was left standing for a while. Our offense was not able to score until just over two minutes into the game after messing up chances earlier. And that is how it is when you watch your team play a long way from home. You are left standing as one of a very few. But if you get a chance to see your team play a long way from home, you should go for it. It is a different experience in Hoops Nation, and the fact that it is difficult makes it worth doing. After all, your players are facing the same challenge as well, so they need to be supported when nobody else is doing so.
at CHATTANOOGA 68, HIGH POINT 61
HIGH POINT 4-7 (0-0) -- J. Brown 8-15 7-11 23; A. Weary 6-10 3-4 15; L. Cugini 2-7 0-0 4; D. McGaughy 0-1 0-0 0; B. Mikulic 0-4 0-0 0; J. Simms 0-2 0-0 0; D. Edwards 1-4 0-2 2; C. Law 2-6 0-0 4; H. McIntyre 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-49 10-17 48.
CHATTANOOGA 4-8 (0-1) -- R. White 5-10 9-11 21; G. McGhee 5-11 2-6 12; Z. Mason 5-9 5-6 15; F. Cobb 1-9 0-0 2; M. Bareika 2-5 2-2 6; D. Zlovaric 2-5 0-0 4; S. Watson 1-2 0-1 2; J. Bryant 0-0 2-2 2; A. Bran 2-3 0-0 4; E. Robertson 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 23-55 20-28 68.
Three-point goals: HP 0-11 (J. Simms 0-1; D. Wallace 3-9; B. Mikulic 0-4; L. Cugini 0-3; D. Edwards 0-2; A. Weary 0-1), CHAT 2-21 (M. Bareika 0-2; R. White 2-7; A. Bran 0-1; F. Cobb 0-6; G. McGhee 0-4; E. Robertson 0-1); Rebounds: HP 41 (J. Brown 16), CHAT 30 (Z. Mason 9); Assists: HP 13 (L. Cugini 5), CHAT 12 (R. White 4); Total Fouls -- HP 23, CHAT 21; Fouled Out: HP-None; CHAT-S. Watson.