UTC Mocs and UT Vols meet tonight in Knoxville

UTC Mocs and UT Vols meet tonight in Knoxville

January 2nd, 2012 by David Uchiyama in Sports - College

The picture is displayed almost everywhere.

It's in the Chattem Practice Facility. It's outside the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga basketball offices. A copy of it is framed in coach John Shulman's office along with an official box score. It looks good there.

It's a split-second image of Chris Brown smiling and enthusiastically jumping up the back of Ricky Hood in the final seconds of the Mocs' 69-68 win at Tennessee in Thompson-Boling Arena on Dec. 5, 2004.

The image, captured by a photographer from The Associated Press, is a historic image for the UTC basketball program. That day, the Mocs were the best basketball team in the state. They knocked off their big brother -- the Big Orange.

UTC has an opportunity to re-create that image, or something similar to it, with a new cast of players when the Mocs play at UT tonight in Thompson-Boling Arena at 7 p.m.

"I like where we are, and we need to continue to get momentum," coach John Shulman said. "I feel like they just played their best game of the season, and they have momentum just like we are -- rocking and rolling."

The Mocs lost 82-62 last year at UT. They lost 114-75 in the opening game of the 2008-09 season at UT when Kevin Goffney injured his ankle 32 seconds into the game. And UTC lost 76-70 to the 10th ranked Vols in McKenzie Arena on Dec. 4 2007.

Those games are history.

The Mocs have hope and an opportunity this time around. The Vols are not what they used to be. The Vols lost to Austin Peay and lost to the College of Charleston, which the Mocs took to double-overtime.

"Every team is going to have an Austin Peay game," Shulman said. "They could have lost to UNC-Asheville and ETSU, but there was no doubt in the Citadel game that they're good.

"They're out in passing lanes and hard-hedging screens, so they're no fun to play against."

Senior guard Omar Wattad is looking forward to the matchup which comes against one of the big-name programs on the Mocs' 2011-12 schedule.

"It will be fun," said Wattad, who grew up in Johnson City, and averaged 18.5 points per game in the Dr Pepper Classic. "It's always a good time to play basketball. We're excited to play an SEC at any time."

UTC freshman guard Ronrico White is especially excited to play against the Vols. His dad, Tony White, was an All-American at UT and a second-round pick of the Chicago Bulls.

"I don't know what colors Dad will be wearing, but he'll be rooting for the blue and gold," White said. "I'm tying to make it just like another game, even though I'm going home. I didn't have a connection to UT other than my dad. I really wasn't a UT fan."

And neither is Shulman.