MACON, Ga. -- Fresh thoughts and observations from the Mocs at Mercer.
The Opening Tip
UTC's double-overtime basketball loss at the College of Charleston last weekend hurt in the win-loss column, but the Mocs felt pretty good about themselves. They turned the page on the past and played with the enthusiasm and intensity necessary to beat an equal foe.
Saturday's loss at Mercer hurt in the gut and reopened wounds that the Charleston effort seemed to have closed.
Team captains Omar Wattad and Keegan Bell spoke after the game once again about players having to look at themselves in the mirror, players having a glazed look at different times in the game and also about how much potential they have and how their record should be much different than 2-7.
A fly on the wall would have heard interesting things in the UTC lockerroom after the game.
Mocs Chalk Talk
Mercer coach Bob Hoffman raved about UTC point guard Bell in his postgame interview.
Hoffman noted how Bell, and Wattad too, were able to split double-teams when the Bears double-teamed ball-screens in the early part of the game.
Then Hoffman told his on-ball defenders to go under the screen, closer to the basket, and let the offensive man make a decision -- shoot, keep dribbling for another screen or pass it to somebody away from the basket and repeat the exercise.
UTC scored a field goal on six of its first 13 possessions of the game. It finished the game 19-of-49 from the floor, which levels out to 38.8 percent shooting.
Going under the screens made a big difference, as did the Bears sprinkling in a little 1-2-2 three-quarters-court trap.
Google told me that the medical phrase STAT stands for Sooner Than Already There. Who knew?
The Mocs made 10 of 20 free throws Saturday night. That includes a woeful 5-of-14 in the second half, taking into account UTC missing the front end of all three bonus chances in the final period.
Mrs. Obear, who is the wife of former UTC chancellor Fred Obear and a proponent of Mocs making free throws, could be crying at such a poor performance.
Shulman out today
UTC coach John Shulman said before the game that a close friend of his is in a dire health situation. Shulman intimated that this is a situation that goes beyond basketball -- real life or death.
The assistant coaches will lead the Mocs through their practice today. The plan includes the introduction of a supplementary defense UTC hasn't used in years.
Could have been ugly
A Mercer player and Mocs scrambled on the floor for a loose ball -- I couldn't identify either, and that's not the point -- and officials granted Mercer a timeout.
Almost all of the Bears reserves rushed on to the court to celebrate the effort of a teammate -- and just celebrate in general.
Shulman didn't appreciate the mob surrounding just a few of his players, especially after witnessing the ugliness between Cincinnati and Xavier earlier in the day.
Things also became a little testy in the second half when a Mercer player decided the Mocs' pre-play huddle was a place he needed to be. Mercer had no malicious intent when it hurried to celebrate. But eavesdropping, leaning in to a huddle, is just not cool.
Mercer outscored the Mocs by 30 points over a stretch of about 29 minutes.
Being 2-7 with one win over a Not-Even-NAIA school and an overtime win against Savannah State is an awful way for UTC to start the season.
The Mocs started four seniors and a junior Saturday night. Mercer started four sophomores and a senior.
Mercer coach Hoffman loved that note.
The Open Floor
Let's flash back to the question after the Charleston game: "Does taking Charleston to double overtime mean anything in the long run?"
I said yes because it established a new standard or requirement for this team.
Now the answer is no, because UTC failed to use that experience in Charleston as a propellant into the Mercer game.
UTC took a step back -- maybe two.
What say you?