Playing at home helped.
Playing full-court pressure defense helped.
And freshmen playing beyond their seasoning helped the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's basketball team go 3-1 during their recent homestand, with the loss by merely three points to the College of Charleston.
The Mocs concluded the stretch with an 83-49 whipping of Furman in which walk-on Alex Bran played the final six minutes.
"I feel like we're playing loose and with a bunch of confidence, and the press has helped us a lot," sophomore guard Ronrico White said. "Coach [John Shulman] always wanted us to play fast, but now we're playing fast on defense as well, it's helped us on offense."
The Mocs take their new fast-flavored show on the road for a Southern Conference game tonight at Wofford (10-17, 4-7) in Spartanburg, S.C. They've played a 1-2-2 defense in the full court during several road games this season, but they've never played it from the opening tip away from McKenzie Arena.
"We're a lot more comfortable, but we haven't taken this show on the road yet," Shulman said. "We will be no different. We're not going to change. It will be fun and it will be interesting."
The Mocs (11-15, 6-7) have kept themselves in the race for the fourth first-round bye of the Southern Conference tournament. They'll need to win their fair share of games and see how other games shake out during the last 16 days of the season.
In the process of staying in the race, the Mocs learned how they're going to play for the rest of the season -- no matter how long it lasts.
"We found who we are. We found our identity," Shulman said. "We could have easily gone 4-0. We needed something to push us over the edge; we found that defense and we've embraced it. Nobody else is playing this style, and we're going to continue playing it."
Freshmen have played key roles for the Mocs the entire season. Thursday against Furman, UTC was led in scoring by three freshmen: Gee McGhee with 16 points, Eric Robertson with 14 and Farad Cobb with 12.
"I think we have some steam and energy and are going to finish out the season strong," Cobb said. "I think we all can play, and it's good seeing us all have a solid game at the same time. I think that makes the future look bright."
The contributions from Cobb and Robertson were welcomed in the second half and may signify the beginning of a furious finish by all UTC freshmen, including Casey Jones, who returned Thursday from a broken femur suffered on Dec. 21.
"With as hard as I work in practice, it feels good to get rewarded in a game," Robertson said. "I'm playing a lot better and my confidence is high."
Before practice Friday, senior center Drazen Zlovaric arrived at the Chattem Practice Facility holding a mask. He didn't wear it during the walk from McKenzie Arena. He'll likely need to wear it for the rest of the season to protect the nose he broke in the opening minutes Thursday night.
"They may have to look at it after the season and see if they need to straighten it out," Shulman said. "I may go with him to see if they can do something about mine. Maybe a two-for-one special."
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 ...