published Saturday, February 8th, 2014

Chattanooga Mocs face road rematch at Samford

UTC coach Will Wade and his assistants quickly turned the Mocs’ attention to tonight’s game in Birmingham against Samford after Tuesday’s nonconference road loss to Eastern Kentucky.
UTC coach Will Wade and his assistants quickly turned the Mocs’ attention to tonight’s game in Birmingham against Samford after Tuesday’s nonconference road loss to Eastern Kentucky.
Photo by Doug Strickland /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The conversation changed in a hurry.

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's basketball coaches could have dwelled on a 74-63 loss Tuesday night at Easter Kentucky during the bus ride home.

Instead, they started discussing the next game, which comes tonight at 7 against Southern Conference foe Samford in Birmingham.

"We've turned all of our attention to Samford," head coach Will Wade said about 18 hours after the Mocs' loss. "They're all that's important right now."

UTC (15-10, 9-1) stepped out of conference to play the Colonels in a game scheduled by the Mocs' previous coaching staff. Wade won't step out of conference next year.

"It messes up an off week," he said. "Why would you mess up your own off week? I'm not into giving up off weeks."

The Mocs moved on from Tuesday's loss as soon they boarded the bus back home. But one statistic lingered and perturbed the head coach: UTC had 24 turnovers.

"We actually played really well," Wade said. "We didn't value the ball. We didn't get enough shots up on the backboard. I was joking with the staff that we should have just got over halfcourt and thrown it to the rim."

Such a philosophy may not work against Samford. The Bulldogs (10-15, 4-6) have gone with a bigger and taller lineup since UTC faced them in early January.

"I think we have a better understanding of how we need to play," Samford coach Bennie Seltzer said. "We're bigger now, and hopefully that helps in the rebounding department."

The Bulldogs have won four of their seven games since a 90-81 loss in McKenzie Arena on Jan 9. It's no coincidence that Raijon Kelly -- a member of the 2013 All-SoCon team -- is providing a boost off of the bench.

Kelly, a junior who has scored more than 1,000 points in his career, has averaged more than 16 per game in Samford's last five contests.

"He was in a funk," Seltzer said. "He's been playing better as of late, and he's a reason for some of our success."

The success could continue with a win against the Mocs, who are in great shape for a first-round bye in the Southern Conference tournament. But that tournament is weeks away.

UTC has a game tonight that has been the sole focus of the coaching staff and players since they left Richmond, Ky., on Tuesday.

"They were able to take us out of what we wanted to do," Mocs junior point guard Ronrico White said. "It wasn't easy to complete the easy passes. We had too many turnovers."

That's in the past. Facing the Bulldogs for a second time this season is in the immediate future for UTC, which also has evolved since the first meeting. Each squad has tweaked its game plan for the second go-round.

UTC altered its defensive scheme in its second matchup with Wofford by double-teaming the post.

"There will be some slight changes," Wade said. "By this point in the season, you are who you are. It's not like you're going to pull something out from behind a curtain."

Seltzer is aware of the opportunity to earn a revenge win in a warming rivalry.

"You try not to make the mistakes you made the first time," he said, "and things that you were successful at, you try to do better the second time around."

Contact David Uchiyama at or 423-757-6484. Follow him at

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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