CHARLESTON, S.C. - Zaccheus Mason arrived in the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga team meeting room with a deck of cards ready to play spades with any challenger after basketball practice.
Teammates Sam Watson and Drazen Zlovaric used their spare time in a different manner Friday in this usually chilly Southern city. They were sunbathing.
Life is good for the Mocs on the road these days.
UTC (7-9, 2-1) will continue a string of three straight Southern Conference road games today at the College of Charleston (10-5, 2-1). The first two were victories. The Mocs won 74-70 at Samford last Saturday, then 70-65 at The Citadel on Thursday.
The Mocs also won earlier in the season at Kennesaw State. They also had chances in the second half -- perhaps slim chances -- to win at Kansas, at LSU and at Georgia Tech.
Last year, UTC went 11-6 at home with zero road wins in 15 games away from McKenzie Arena.
"It's not home or away. I think that since the Dr Pepper Classic, we learned how to win and what it takes to win," Zlovaric said. "I have no doubt that when we go back home next week, we're going to play great."
The secret is in the shooting. UTC has shot 48.9 percent from the field, 45.4 percent from the 3-point arc and 74.6 percent from the free-throw line in its three road wins.
There's more to it, coach John Shulman said, like spades and sunbathing and studying. Freshmen Alex Bran and Eric Robertson spent part of their free afternoon by the pool with textbooks.
"They're little kids that are rooting for each other," Shulman said. "There's something about being on a road with a team that's together. When you have a together team, being on the road is fun."
Before practice, Zlovaric and Bran were playing Hacky Sack with a basketball, the first time all season they've done that.
"When you win, everything is natural and being yourself," Zlovaric said. "Road wins are amazing."
Freshman Farad Cobb started at point guard in two of the three road wins. He gazed around the new TD Arena before practice Friday and noticed plenty of seating for fans right on the court. It's one of the first things he noticed.
"I already like playing road games," said Cobb, who scored 21 points in Allen Fieldhouse against the Jayhawks. "You can hear them trash-talk. That gives me more fire."
The Cougars are 5-5 at home after losing to Samford 62-57 on Thursday. They also lost to non-Division I team Anderson (S.C.) University, albeit without leading scorer Andrew Lawrence. But they also have a win at Baylor and one over Boston College.
They were likely in part of their routine Friday while the Mocs were in whatever routine they wanted -- inside or outside the team hotel.
"These guys are young and dumb," Shulman said. "Being on the road doesn't affect them."