CHATTANOOGA (UTC) -- The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's basketball team could not overcome a mid-game lull, falling 65-59 to visiting Kennesaw State Friday night.
UTC (0-3) trailed by as many as 16 before a furious comeback attempt fell short in the final minute.
"We played poorly," head coach John Shulman said after the loss. "The effort and execution was not very good. We could not answer. We were a step slow.
"Everybody on this level, Division I, gives scholarships, so everybody is good. They out-played and out-worked us."
Ricky Taylor's 14 points paced the Mocs, while Omar Wattad added 12. Drazen Zlovaric just missed a double-double with 11 points and game-high nine boards. Despite three players in double figures, the Mocs barely surpassed their early-season average of 49.5 points per game.
"I look at it as a chance to improve. We have to improve," Wattad said. "Scoring 59, 46 and 53 in three games is not enough. We have to bring the fire defensively to get the offense going. So yeah, we have to figure out a way to score more, definitely."
Wattad nailed a three-pointer for the Mocs to cut the margin to nine, 50-41, at 11:41. But the Owls had an answer. On their ensuing possession, Romain Henry drained a trey of his own as shot clock buzzed zero to make it 53-41 at 11:01. That shot sparked a 10-3 run for KSU as a Markeith Cummings layup on the break gave it its biggest lead, 60-44, at 8:28.
But the Mocs started nibbling at the lead. Jahmal Burroughs followed his own missed shot with a rebound tip to get the score within 10 for good, 62-53, at 3:54. Two Zlovaric free throws at 1:20 made things very interesting at 62-58, but the Mocs would get no closer.
"(Tonight) was not the same team. We fought, we battled, we competed at Butler. Tonight, we let people have their way," Taylor said. "That is not Chattanooga basketball, and we have to do something about it.
"As far as the seniors, that is unacceptable for the seniors and the rest of the team."
Cummings came off the bench to lead all scorers with 21 points, adding eight rebounds, three assists and two steals. Dixon chipped in 17 for the Owls.
UTC came out firing scoring on two of its first three possessions of the game. Lance Stokes' fast break layup off a beautiful feed from Ronrico White gave the Mocs their largest lead of nine, 14-5, at 13:12.
But KSU scored 11 of the next 13 points to take its first lead, 16-15, on a Cummings layup off the break. Cummings' three at 4:24 gave the Owls the lead for good, 28-27, as they finished the last 4:45 of the first half out-scoring the Mocs 12-4, to take a 37-31 cushion into intermission.
Kennesaw State scored 18 fast break points on the evening and ended up shooting 44.6 percent (25-56) from the field. The Owls started out hitting just four of 13 attempts, 30.8 percent, before making 21 of 43 (48.8%) the rest of the way.
Conversely, the Mocs started hot and struggled the rest of the way. The second half was a chilly 32.1 percent (9-28) performance from the field, including just five of 13 (38.5%) inside three-point range.
The game was the first of a four-game home stand for Chattanooga. UTC hosts Warren Wilson on Monday at 7 p.m. ET.
Information provided by UTC Sports Information and GoMocs.com.