published Thursday, January 30th, 2014

Mocs vs. Davidson rivarlry coming to a close

Davidson coach Bob McKillop gestures from the sidelines.
Davidson coach Bob McKillop gestures from the sidelines.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Davidson is departing.

The Southern Conference basketball power is leaving a wake of victims behind as it jumps to the Atlantic 10 Conference on July 1, 2014

Every team in the SoCon has a losing record against the Wildcats except one -- the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

The game tonight between to the two teams is the last scheduled contest between the two SoCon stalwarts who began playing each other in 1978 and have combined to win 18 of the last 32 SoCon tournament championships.

"They've been the most prominent our league, the best program in our league and they have another very good team this year," UTC coach Will Wade said. "They have very good players. We're going to play our game and see how things go."

Wade, in his first year at UTC, has no history of the rivalry. He doesn't know of the battles decades before, or even the 2008 game in which UTC's Matt Gwynne threw an elbow at Thomas Sander that earned him an ejection and a one-game suspension.

The Mocs' coach is more familiar with Davidson's success in recent years including the Stephen Curry era which had the Wildcats one shot away from the Final Four in 2008.

"They're the premier program in the league, and they've been the most consistent team for the last 10 to 15 years," Wade said. "They're always picked to win the league. That's what you want. Even if you don't win it every year, you want to be a threat to win it every year."

The SoCon rivalry is going away with UTC leading the series 32-24 heading into tonight. Davidson has owned the series as of late by winning 13 of the last 15 matchups.

Davidson coach Bob McKillop isn't getting misty-eyed. His focus is on this game and this season.

"I thought the Chattanooga fans were always very involved in games," McKillop said after practice on Wednesday. "It's a great venue to play in and a great city to go to."

History aside, tonight's game is between the top two teams in the SoCon standings with UTC (14-8, 8-0) leading by 1 1/2 games. It's the only time that they'll meet this season unless they play in Asheville, N.C., during the SoCon tournament.

At the rate both teams are playing they could play in the championship game which would only add to the rivalry history.

"They've been top-dogs in this league since my brother [Tony White Jr.] played in this league," junior guard Ronrico White said. "I know how good they are. They're well-coached. And they're winning. That matters."

The Wildcats (10-11, 6-1 SoCon) have won six of their last seven games with loss coming in overtime to Elon. They have one more chance to win the SoCon.

"There's a lot of fond memories," said McKillop who began coaching the Wildcats when Wade was a 7-year-old. "Relationships. You don't spend as much time in the league as I have without developing relationships. The coaches, administrators the officials. I've spent 22 years going to these cities. There's a lot of very fond memories."

This is also a game with the reigning SoCon player of the year in Davidson forward De'Mon Brooks and the favorite to steal his crown in UTC forward Zaccheus Mason.

They're the top two scorers during SoCon competition with Brooks averaging 21.4 and Mason averaging 19.9 points per game.

"Z and De'Mon will be a big matchup and a key to the game," Wade said. They've both had very good seasons. We need Z to impose his will down there."

Contact David Uchiyama at duchiyama@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6484. Follow him on Twitter 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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