published Friday, February 14th, 2014

Chattanooga Mocs ready for Cats 24 hours later

  • photo
    UTC men's head basketball coach Will Wade calls out a play to his team.
    Photo by Erin O. Smith /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The game could wait for a bit.

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga -- in conjunction with officials at Western Carolina University and the Southern Conference -- postponed the schools' men's basketball game from Thursday night to tonight at McKenzie Arena.

"It's the right thing to do," UTC athletic director David Blackburn said. "You have to make sure that campus administrators are on the same page, then make sure the opponent is, then that the league is OK is with it. Then you also have to make sure the arena folks can get in to run the event."

It could be quite an event on Valentine's night.

UTC's Mocs (15-11, 9-2) sit in second place in the conference while the visiting Catamounts (14-11, 7-3) are in a tie for fourth and clinging to the final first-round bye for the SoCon tournament in Asheville, N.C.

"Every game matters; every game has importance," UTC coach Will Wade said. "If you're bad going into Asheville, you're not going to magically put it together. It's all about the preparation and how you get to Asheville.

"We have to keep building. You're not going to waltz in there and flip the switch."

Wade and his team had the switch in the "on" position during a 10-game winning streak that included an 8-0 start to SoCon play, but the Mocs have been flickering since. They've gone 1-3 in their last four games, including a 92-85 overtime loss last Saturday at Samford.

It's a loss that Wade had seen coming because of UTC's decline in the prior two weeks. He scheduled an unusual video review and practice on Sunday, just hours after the loss.

"It's human nature that when things go well and you're on a roll, that everything is going to be fine," he said. "When we got it to overtime, we thought we're going to pull this thing out. No, you have to make it happen. We're not talented enough to win without playing with an edge."

The Mocs, due to the winter storm, had an extra day to sharpen their skills. But they couldn't do it in the Chattem Practice Facility or McKenzie because the school was closed. Wade worked from home Wednesday and had to postpone a recruiting trip he had scheduled for today.

But compared to other SoCon schools, the Mocs and Catamounts can absorb the 24-hour delay because neither had a game scheduled for Saturday.

"Coaches are well aware of rest and prep, so when you take a game from one slot it impacts upcoming games," SoCon commissioner John Iamarino said. "You have to understand that somebody may be at a disadvantage."

That's not the case tonight.

The Mocs and Catamounts have had plenty of rest and preparation time. WCU took a bus via Interstate 40 on Thursday afternoon. UTC had physical practices Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday and a typical preparation day Thursday.

"We've had to get back to what we do best," junior guard Ronrico White said. "That's blue-collar. We had lost sight of what we needed to do to win. That's being blue-collar, that's being Chattanooga."

That includes defending with intensity.

The Mocs will have to deal with SoCon player of the year candidate Trey Sumler (18.3 ppg) on the perimeter and a resurgent Tawaski King on the inside.

"I think the big thing is that we have got Tawaski going again," WCU coach Larry Hunter said. "He wasn't having a King type of season, but the last two games he's become a force again. And Trey, he's having a vintage Trey season."

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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