CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. --- The holiday tradition returns to the McKenzie Arena as Chattanooga hosts the 20th edition of the Dr Pepper Classic. This year's event features three good mid-major programs.
Two teams, Chattanooga (6-6) and Morgan State (7-4) competed in the 2009 NCAA Tournament. Long Island (4-6), the Mocs opening night opponent, was picked to finish second in the Northeast Conference, while Eastern Kentucky (7-4) is coming off an 18-win season.
The Mocs are led by senior Ty Patterson's 16.5 points per contest. He has played four games since being reinstated prior to the Dec. 12 Mississippi Valley State game. True freshman guard Josh Odem chips in 10.6 points per game.
LIU is paced by Jaytornah Wisseh at 17.9 points per game. He is a two-time Northeast Conference Player of the Week this season and ranks among the league's top 10 in six categories.
Morgan State owns wins over Arkansas and East Tennessee State and lost in overtime, 93-92, at Appalachian State. EKU has not lost a game by more than 12 (Ohio, 74-62) this year despite playing the likes of Maryland and Pittsburgh.
WHO: DeAntre Jefferson. In the last two games, Jefferson is averaging 11.5 points and 10 rebounds per game. In just 41 minutes of playing time, DeAntre accumulated 23 points and 20 rebounds in the loss at Murray State and win over Tennessee Temple.
WHAT: Dr Pepper Classic - Eastern Kentucky (7-4) vs. Morgan State (7-4) and Long Island (4-6) at Chattanooga (6-6)
WHEN: Tuesday-Wednesday, Dec. 29-30, 6 & 8 p.m. (ET) in the McKenzie Arena (10,928). Wednesday's consolation game is at 6 p.m., while the title tilt is at 8 p.m.
WHERE: The Mocs games will be broadcast on the Mocs Sports Network with Jim Reynolds calling the play-by-play. It can be listened to locally on ESPN 105.1 FM and worldwide on GoMocs.com. The video streams can be watched at GoMocs.com on Chattanooga All-Access.
HOW: This is the 20th annual Dr Pepper Classic. It began in 1990 with the Mocs topping San Francisco (92-79) and UC Irvine (88-68). Chattanooga has captured 12 titles along the way. The only opening round loss came on Dec. 29, 1997 with a 78-70 loss to UNC Greensboro. The Mocs followed with a 70-68 win over UNC Asheville. The last loss in the Dr Pepper Classic for UTC came on Dec. 30, 2007 dropping an 87-82 decision to Wright State in the title game despite a furious comeback.
SERIES: The Mocs lead LIU 1-0. It will be the first meeting against either EKU or Morgan State on Day Two.
PROBABLE STARTERS: F -Ty Patterson, Sr. (16.5, 3.0); F - Ridge McKeither, Jr. (9.5 ppg, 6.2 rpg); C - DeAntre Jefferson, Jr. (7.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg); G - Keegan Bell, So. (7.8 ppg,5.4 apg); G - Josh Odem, Fr. (10.6 ppg, 3.0 rpg).