published Saturday, December 8th, 2012

Mocs facing big test after exams

Drazen Zlovaric of UTC is guarded by Western Carolina's Tawaski King during a  game at McKenzie Arena.
Drazen Zlovaric of UTC is guarded by Western Carolina's Tawaski King during a game at McKenzie Arena.
Photo by Angela Lewis /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Drazen Zlovaric took the last final exam of his college academic career Friday.

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga senior wrapped up the fall semester and will have one class in the spring semester -- a research class.

"It's going to be about research and ball and that's it," said Zlovaric, who earned his degree in anthropology and sociology. "I'll be walking [in graduation] in May, take one class in the spring and write a paper on it. I tried to clear out my senior year to focus on basketball."

Freshman Gee McGhee took his last final of the semester Wednesday. He said he aced the psychology exam. Junior forward Zaccheus Mason took his last exam of the fall Friday in Media Writing II.

All of the Mocs will have another type of test tonight -- playing at 7 against Eastern Kentucky.

The Colonels will bring their perfect 8-0 record and stifling defense to McKenzie Arena and face a Mocs team that is 2-5 and has been offensively challenged most of the season.

"Our offense is a continual deal that we'll have to work on," UTC coach John Shulman said. "You can't get tricked by shots going in or not going in. Our execution at Kansas was great when the ball went in the basket.

"We've been average at best."

The Mocs rank 11th out of 12 Southern Conference teams by shooting 38.5 percent from the floor. They are dead last in 3-point shooting. They've made just 32 treys in seven games, and their .278 percentage from behind the arc ranks them No. 303 in the country.

Facing Eastern Kentucky, which is No. 38 in the nation in steals with 9.25 per game, is not a ideal time for UTC to find an offensive flow.

Shulman said after an 81-55 loss to Davidson that Zlovaric need to take more than the five shots he attempted and the three free throws he took. That may be easier said than done tonight.

"They pressure so much it's going to be hard to get it inside," Shulman said. "We have to do a better job of getting Drazen and [Mason] looks. Until we get more comfortable offensively, that's a great place to start."

The Mocs are in a stretch of playing only on Saturdays. They won 65-51 at Kennesaw State on Nov. 24, lost to Davidson last Saturday and host the Colonels tonight.

That's allowed plenty of time to tweak parts of the UTC offense, even with freshman point guard Farad Cobb missing some of that practice time. Shulman said he'll play tonight with goggles.

"We definitely need to improve our execution, and we go a while of time without scoring," Zlovaric said. "We worked on transition a lot this week, and it's a lot more structured and we emphasized getting the ball inside."

All of the clanked shots plus an increased emphasis on rebounding has the Mocs tied for sixth in the country with an average of 16.3 offensive rebounds per game and 24th in total rebounds per game.

UTC has had possessions this season in which the best shot immediately follows a missed shot.

"We put more structure into our break because it was kind of confusing and guys were spazzing," Mason said. "Now everybody knows where to be in the right spots."

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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