published Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

Coach Will Wade: UTC Mocs almost out of tricks, must get tougher on defense

UTC's Ronrico White (11 in white) guards Wofford's Indiana Faithfull during a game in January. The Mocs have used a wide variety of defenses, but lately they haven't been working well.
UTC's Ronrico White (11 in white) guards Wofford's Indiana Faithfull during a game in January. The Mocs have used a wide variety of defenses, but lately they haven't been working well.
Photo by Erin O. Smith /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

In his office, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga basketball coach Will Wade has three-inch binders full of offensive plays and defensive sets.

He has gone through almost all of them with the Mocs, or at least what he thinks his surprising squad is capable of executing.

"The bag of tricks is about empty," Wade said by phone as he began a recruiting trip after UTC lost 88-84 in a Southern Conference game Sunday afternoon at UNC Greensboro.

"We have to do what we do, and do it better," he said. "We're running out of stuff. We've played almost every defense known to man in college basketball this season. At some point we just have to sit down and guard in whatever defense we're playing."

The Mocs (16-13, 10-4) have allowed at least 74 points in each of the losses of their current 2-5 stretch. They held Furman to 52 in a UTC win and beat Western Carolina 83-73 in the same span.

The losses started at Davidson after the Mocs won 10 straight games, including their first eight in SoCon play.

"What's not good enough is giving up 88 on the road," Wade said. "If you score 84, you can win a lot of games."

But not on Sunday.

Wade dialed back on the pressure until late in the game when UTC needed to force turnovers. He also had the Mocs play a 3-2 zone as a changeup to the other defenses he threw at UNCG coach Wes Miller.

In a game of runs in the Greensboro Coliseum, UTC led 29-19 in the first half and trailed 67-55 in the second half.

"It was a tough game, and we couldn't get stops when we needed them," junior guard Ronrico White said Monday. "When we were leading, we were getting stops. Then it got into a stretch where both teams were scoring and we weren't stopping each other.

"They had the last run."

This season, Wade has called for a box-and-one, a triangle-and-two, a 2-3 zone, a 2-3 matchup zone, a 1-3-1 zone, basic man-to-man, pressure man-to-man and various full-court-pressure defenses, including a 1-2-2 and a 2-2-1.

"We'll go back to the drawing board and do things better than we've been doing them," said Wade, who gave his players the day off and instructed them to get some rest. "We played better than we did on Thursday [in a 77-61 loss to Georgia Southern]. We played with good energy; we did a good job on the glass.

"We couldn't sustain our defense."

There's little doubt that the Mocs are a tired team. But they're not the only one in the SoCon. UTC shot 39 percent from the field and went 4-of-17 from the 3-point line against the Spartans (13-16, 6-8).

UTC has two games remaining in the regular season. It will play Thursday at Western Carolina and end the regular season at home Saturday against Appalachian State on senior night for Zaccheus Mason.

Then comes the SoCon tournament. UTC has secured a first-round bye but could be seeded anywhere from second to fifth depending on results across the league Thursday and Saturday.

"Everybody is worn out," Wade said. "Some teams have a mental toughness to battle off fatigue when they're tired. We'd better find it soon, or it will be over soon."

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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