It’s not the rivalry it once was as the two men’s basketball teams meet in Johnson City at 4 pm on Saturday.
It’s getting to the point where Chattanooga (13–5, 4–5) is yesterday’s rival for ETSU.
Once upon a time, these two colleges had the two most respected men’s basketball programs in the Southern Conference. As recently as 2016 they met in the SoCon Final.
And even in the days when ETSU wasn’t in the Southern Conference, Courtney Pigram’s 3-pointer that gave the Buccaneers 71–70 overtime victory against the Mocs in 2006 is looked upon by many as ETSU’s sweetest non-conference victory during their time in the Atlantic Sun Conference.
But when the Mocs visit Johnson City today, Saturday, February 6, for a 4 pm tipoff one wonders if times have changed.
UNCG (13–5, 8–2) is just as far away geographically as Chattanooga is from the Tri-Cities. Furthermore, the Spartans have been a more competitive foe for ETSU (11–6, 7–2) in recent years, both head-to-head and for first place.
In fact, if ETSU beats Chattanooga, they’ll tie the Spartans for first-place in the SoCon.
So when people watch Kenny Hawkins and Kasey Marler in the first of ETSU three games that will be independently televised on WJHL’s ABC affiliate (shades of the Glory Days of the early ‘90s!), perhaps the feeling will be “what has happened to the Chattanooga basketball program?”
Which considering the Mocs’ overall record may sound harsh, but they’re already 3 1/2 games back of first place in the SoCon standings and have dropped five of their last nine games after a 9–0 start.
Could it be the play on the boards? The Mocs have been perhaps the worst rebounding team in league play.
Could it be team defense? SoCon opponents have connected on 48 percent of their field goals against the Mocs. Only The Citadel and Western Carolina have allowed league opponents to shoot at a higher percentage from the field, and barely at that (49 percent).
Could it be team chemistry? Leading scorer David Jean-Baptiste, a senior guard, left the Mocs in December after the first five games, only to return when the SoCon season started.