published Monday, February 6th, 2012

UTC Mocs trying to find way out of slump

Mocs trainer B.J. Leyser walked out of the Chattem Practice facility with injured players Zaccheus Mason and Jahmal Burroughs right behind him.

They were heading to a University of Tennessee at Chattanooga pool for rehabilitation.

Coach John Shulman quipped, "Jahmal, can you swim?"

"Yeah I can swim," said Burroughs, who has a pulled right hamstring. "C'mon Coach, I survived Katrina."

Players and coaches within earshot all had a chuckle at the response from the New Orleans native.

The Mocs (9-16, 3-9 SoCon) have not had much to laugh about, or to smile about over the last three weeks. Light, enjoyable moments like that, are being cherished right now.

They've lost seven straight games -- more than any UTC team in its Division I era -- and were thumped 88-61 at Davidson on Saturday.

"They played good and we were beat down," Shulman said after practice. "We were mentally beat down, but we had a great Sunday practice and threw in some new things that we'll be working on."

Shulman hinted at some offensive adjustments then explained there will be a slightly different approach to how the Mocs will play on the defensive end.

The changes are coming because of the injuries to Burroughs and Mason, the familiarity SoCon opponents have with what UTC has been doing all season, and to get comfortable with the concepts heading into the Southern Conference tournament.

"We have to do a great job of mixing it up," Shulman said. "We have to mix "Fire" and not firing and mixing some zone in there. We're a half-a-step slow right now in games.

"We're waiting on something bad to happen instead of attacking."

The Mocs allowed 80 or more points in five of their last seven games. Shulman prefers to keep opponents under 65 points, and certainly under 70 in a game.

So change is necessary because Burroughs and Mason are out indefinitely.

"It's definitely a concern," senior Ricky Taylor said. "We still have six games left so we are still in the improving business."

The Mocs began the season using a variety of defenses. Then Shulman decided UTC would go under all ball-screens and go into a game either using "Fire" or not -- with a couple of exceptions.

"Basketball is a game of adjustments," said freshman Ronrico White, who has played at least 11 minutes in the last five games. "We need to adjust for us to have an advantage, but we have to be their quick."

Quick -- like Burroughs' retort.

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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