When Chattanooga and Radford get together on Tuesday afternoon, it will be an important match-up for both schools as they head into the Christmas holiday.
Chattanooga, already owners of big wins over Dayton, Illinois and Georgia, is looking to get to 10-2 on the season and keep their positive momentum rolling towards conference play that starts at the beginning of January.
Radord, who beat Georgetown and Penn State this year, look to finish the D1 part of their non-conference schedule on a positive note.
The Highlanders are 7-5 on the season following their upset of UNC-Wilmington on Saturday afternoon. The Highlanders leading scorer is Rashun Davis, who is averaging 13.7 points and 4.8 assists per game. He is shooting just 27.3% from three point range, though. He has scored just three points in three of the last four games, with the long exception being when he scored 23 against Howard. His late threes in the second overtime against Howard and against Georgetown propelled Radford to victories, so he has made clutch shots this year.
Ed Polite Jr. is the leading rebounder, with 6.1 boards per contest. He had 27 points and 11 rebounds against Howard on December 12. He turned around against UNC-Wilmington and scored just six though. The 6-5 freshman needs to step up in this one.
Darius Bolstad, Keon Brown and Brandon Holcomb are the three biggest on the Highlanders roster at 6-8, 6-7 and 6-7. None of the three put up big numbers, but all are important against the Mocs big guys.
For the Mocs, Casey Jones has sat out the last three games with an ankle injury and the Mocs have gone 3-0 in those games. He was their senior leader. He will likely be out for this one as well.
That means that the Mocs will be turning to their 6-10 big man, Justin Tuoyo. He has always been one of the top defensive players in mid-major basketball, but he has stepped up on the offensive side recently, scoring a career high 21 against Kennesaw State on Friday.
Greg Pryor has also stepped into a huge leadership role. The junior point guard has far exceeded the expectations he had when he came to Chattanooga. He continues to impress with his 46.2% three point shooting and 3.5 assists per contest. He averages 10.3 points per game.
Eric Robertson also is shooting over 48% from three point range. He has knocked down an enormous number of big shots this season and is the Mocs best three point shooter.
The Mocs have the size advantage and will cause match-up problems with Tuoyo and also with Duke Ethridge. It will be a huge challenge to Radford to be able to handle those guys inside. At the same time, Pryor and Robertson provide plenty of challenges from outside as well. On the surface, this looks like a relatively easy Mocs win at home.
When you dig deeper and realize that Radford has already beaten Georgetown and Penn State (admittedly not vintage teams from power conferences) and also just beat UNC-Wilmington (quite possible their best win of the year to date), and it is easy to see that Radford is a dangerous squad. Throw in that it is a middle of the day game, therefore quite possibly not attracting the most raucous crowd to McKenzie Arena, and this game could be a game the Mocs sleep walk through. They can ill afford to do that. For much of Friday night's game against Kennesaw State, the Mocs were asleep, only to wake up in time to win. Do that again, and the Mocs could easily be looking at a third loss.
The Mocs hold on for a win, but it won't always be pretty. In the end, the Mocs make just enough big shots to come away with it. Prediction: Chattanooga 75, Radford 71.