published Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Saffore illness hampers Mocs

John Shulman knew he wouldn't have Chris Early or Sam Watson available for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's basketball game Thursday night at Western Carolina.

That left him with four post players.

It may be down to three.

Mocs center Jeremy Saffore has been quarantined for at least 48 hours with a strain of the flu that escaped preseason shots.

"We leave tomorrow," Shulman said Tuesday. "That's a problem. We were going to bring Chris up for the game anyway, and hopefully we'll be able to bring Jeremy too.

"But if the doctor doesn't clear him, he's not going to play."

Early's suspension, Watson's shoulder injury and Saffore's illness could leave UTC with eight players in uniform — one center, two power forwards, two point guards and three wings.

"It's only the biggest game of the season," Shulman said of the Southern Conference matchup between his North-leading Mocs and the second-place Catamounts. "The nice thing would be to know if we'll have him. Jeremy throws a big wrench in this because Jahmal [Burroughs] has never played the 5 [position]."

Western Carolina coach Larry Hunter knew Tuesday morning that Early would be out. He had reviewed several UTC games but had not learned of Saffore's situation.

"I see a lot better execution at both ends like we have," Hunter said. "They've got very comfortable with their roles. They've made a lot of improvement."

He may have wasted some time because the Mocs will look much different if they use Burroughs at center, Jeff Smith at power forward and usual shooting guard Ricky Taylor at small forward — a possible scenario.

"I may call [UTC football coach] Russ Huesman and see if he's got an offensive lineman I can suit up," Shulman joked. "Pray for snow so we can't get to Cullowhee, and go battle and compete are our options.

"Whoever is out there in uniform for Chattanooga will give us a chance."

Point guard Keegan Bell almost assuredly will be one of them. He averages 35 minutes a game, but he could play 40 so Dontay Hampton can play off guard.

"We'll have to make adjustments and be ready to roll," Bell said. "We can run now, and we like to run. That sounds crazy because you don't want to get tired, but it gives us an advantage on the offensive end. It makes it tougher for them to guard, and we can get up and down the floor more efficiently."

about David Uchiyama...

David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...

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