It's nice to be Dr Pepper Classic Champions. It never gets old, even if the Mocs have done it now sixteen times in 24 years. The win over Maine was very satisfying.
Maine made 14 of 22 from three point range against Middle Tennessee. They made 9 of 22 against the Mocs on Monday night. Dimitry Coronel knocked down 5 of 7 from long range and scored 18 points in the first half, but only scored six in the second half. The second half slow down of Coronel and the Black Bears not shooting quite as well was the reason the Mocs won.
The Mocs were lead by Gee McGhee and Casey Jones for much of the night. McGhee finally showed some of the offensive spark that he's been missing. He actually knocked down a couple of threes, which seemed to help him be more aggressive attacking the basket. He wound up with 17 points and ten assists. That's a really good night for McGhee and it was good to see.
Jones scored 20, making his first nine shots from the floor. He missed his last two, but ended up with five rebounds and three steals. Rico White scored 20 points on the night, knocking down five of five from three point range. White is clearly starting to look like himself. He scored twenty points. He took over point guard duties for much of the game. If he continues to play like that, the Mocs are going to be a much tougher out. He clearly brings a presence to the game that has been lacking. He can knock down shots.
Z Mason won his second straight Dr Pepper Classic MVP Award. He scored 15 points with 15 rebounds and three blocks. Truthfully, I thought Mason looked a little out of sync in each of the last two games. But he made the big plays when it mattered most. He came up with a fingernail block late in the game that was huge in preserving the Mocs victory.
Mason is getting healthy and White is finally back to form from his hip surgery. Lance Stokes is rounding back into form. With all the pieces back together, you can see the team rounding into shape. Jim Reynolds said it during the game- you could almost see possession by possession the Mocs gaining some chemistry on the floor. He said that in the first half- a first half that saw Maine jump out to an eleven point lead and the Mocs come back to trim it to four by halftime.
The Mocs still are not putting together full games. They work hard, but they are getting closer game by game to putting it all together. This team is not great defensively against driving teams like Maine, but they showed tonight that they could score enough to win games where they can't stop someone.
It's nice to win. Now the Mocs head into the SoCon season with a 6-8 record and we'll see what happens at Furman and at The Citadel this coming week.