published Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

UTC Mocs working to get back on track after Samford loss

  • photo
    UTC guard Ronrico White (11) dribbles around Elon guard Luke Eddy (1).
    Photo by Erin O. Smith /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

It looked like a dance competition involving a basketball.

Zaccheus Mason and Justin Tuoyo were near press row of McKenzie Arena after practice Tuesday doing dribbling drills as director of basketball operations Brooks Savage watched the two Mocs.

Dribble, switch feet. One bounce, switch feet. Faster. Whoever kept his dribble the longest won the drill.

At the same time, a handful of University of Tennessee at Chattanooga teammates paraded around the lane painted on the court for extra free-throw work.

On the other end, freshman point guard Greg Pryor worked on his free throws. Then junior guard Ronrico White began hoisting 3-pointers from the corner at the same bucket.

The Mocs were putting in overtime.

"We've had to get back to what we do best," White said. "That's being blue-collar. That's what we've had to do."

The Mocs hadn't been playing a tough style of basketball for the last couple of weeks, and it caught up to them last Saturday. Samford beat UTC 92-85 in overtime, dropping the Mocs to 1-3 in their last four games. They are 15-11 overall, 9-2 in the Southern Conference, and had won 10 games in a row before the recent swoon.

"Coach was trying to save our bodies, but we lost sight of what we needed to do to win," White said. "That's being blue-collar; that's being Chattanooga."

Coach Will Wade called for an video review and practice Sunday after his team lost Saturday. After all, the Mocs don't have enough talent to just show up and win SoCon games.

"We're no good if we can't out-scrap people," Wade said. "I thought we got out-scrapped at Samford, and that's a credit to them. We had a little bit of slippage, but it's not like we forgot how to do it."

As a reminder, Wade slipped several physical drills into the practice schedule Sunday and again Tuesday. The Mocs had Monday off.

One drill is a staple of many basketball programs from the high school to the professional level.

Take a charge. Sprint beyond midcourt and dive for a loose ball. Sprint back and try to save a ball going out of bounds.

"We've done a lot more contact [drills] and we're getting back to what we did earlier in the year when we were playing better," Wade said. "There's a heightened sense of awareness, of alertness, and being more physical, and we're playing more good-on-good to get a tougher mindset."

The work is in preparation for a game Thursday night against Western Carolina (14-11, 7-3) and in preparation for the SoCon tournament. And UTC will have a different starting lineup from the squad that has gone 12-3.

"I'm not sure exactly what changes we'll make, but we'll change the lineup and distribution of minutes based on practice, and we have a practice tomorrow," Wade said. "I think our guys forgot how difficult it is to win.

"We're getting back to remembering."

Contact David Uchiyama at duchiyama@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6484. Follow him at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.

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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