UTC Mocs regroup after tough loss

UTC Mocs regroup after tough loss

February 13th, 2012 by David Uchiyama in Sportscollege

UTC head basketball coach John Shulman watches from the sidelines during Saturday's game against UNC Greensboro at McKenzie Arena.

Photo by Doug Strickland/Times Free Press.

There is no psychiatrist or psychologist on the Mocs basketball coaching staff.

That role falls to University of Tennessee at Chattanooga basketball coach John Shulman. His players get a gauge of where their minds need to be from him.

"I'm in charge of our guys, so we'll keep busting our tail ends," Shulman said Sunday. "If you're a competitor, you don't need a psychiatrist. You keep on battling. We have lots to play for.

"We're playing for a chance to go to the NCAA tournament. When that's over, it will be over."

On dark days -- and there have been many this season -- he provides encouragement and tries his best to instill confidence and a a rosy outlook. And when things are going good, he's more likely to bark at a player in practice and keep them grounded.

He's done it for eight seasons now.

"In coaching, you have lots of different challenges," Shulman said. "This year is different than other years. All of this is a test. It's a cruel test."

It's tougher than ever following the Mocs' 77-76 loss to UNC Greensboro on Saturday which sank their expectations of repeating as Southern Conference North Division champions.

The Mocs, who were picked in the preseason to win the division, dropped five games behind UNCG with four games to play. They cannot win the North Division.

They're also four games behind Elon for second place and a first-round bye in the SoCon tournament. UTC split its series with the Phoenix, so Elon's win over UNCG on Dec. 5 would give Elon the tie-breaker over UTC should the Phoenix lose its last four and the Mocs win their last four.

"Greensboro is in first place, and we're tied for last," Shulman said. "If you watched the game, what separates us is an inch."

The need for emotional assistance lies in the fact that UTC is 2-5 in games decided in overtime or by three points or less. By contrast, the division-leading Spartans are 6-0 in the same circumstances.

Losing games is emotionally taxing like a girlfriend ending the relationship. Losing close is like a fiancee calling off the wedding -- heartbreaking.

"Everybody else can judge our team off the scoreboard," said Shulman, who gave the team Sunday off from practice. "I'm not going to do it. I'm not judging them off the score."

Junior center Drazen Zlovaric played the two best games of his college career on Thursday in UTC's 83-75 win over Elon. His dunk over Lucas Troutman made SportsCenter's Top 10 plays and students he doesn't know congratulated him on the feat, not knowing he scored 12 points and had eight rebounds.

Zlovaric followed that game with a career-high 22 points and seven rebounds on Saturday. His jumper with 61 seconds to play gave UTC a three-point lead.

The lead did not last as Aloysius Henry hit two free throws, Omar Wattad missed a 3-pointer as the Mocs' shot clock ticked down, and Derrell Armstrong drove past Omar Wattad for a layup and the lead with 16 seconds to go.

"It doesn't mean anything," Zlovaric said. "I just played the game like I play every time. But we lost the game, so it doesn't mean anything."

Mocs guard Dontay Hampton suffered a head injury in the first half and did not play after hit head on the floor and suffering a cut above his right eye. A concussion is possible diagnosis.

"I talked to him earlier today and he was feeling good," Shulman said. "But that doesn't mean anything until he sees trainers and doctors."