Improving Chattanooga Mocs men's basketball team now challenges UCLA

Improving Chattanooga Mocs men's basketball team now challenges UCLA

November 24th, 2013 by David Uchiyama in Sports - College

UTC Mocs logo

The improvement is evident.

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's basketball team has improved from each game under first-year head coach Will Wade.

But improvement isn't quite enough.

UTC fell to 0-3 against Division I opponents Friday night when Nevada senior Deonte Burton banked in a 25-footer at the buzzer to beat the Mocs 83-81.

"I kind of felt like we lost the game, really," Nevada coach David Carter told the Reno Gazette-Journal. "They really probably deserved to beat us tonight."

UTC shot 50 percent from the floor, had three double-figure scorers led by Zaccheus Mason with 24 points and committed just 11 turnovers -- 11 fewer than against Kennesaw State on Tuesday.

"Our execution down the stretch was much better, and we cleaned that up from the Kennesaw game," UTC coach Will Wade said from the Reno-Tahoe International Airport. "We talk about having great response and great resolve, and they've shown that all year.

"We had great resolve and response, and we were able to pull ourselves up and played our best game against the best team we've played."

The best team UTC has played will change tonight. The Mocs play at 10 p.m. EST against No. 22 UCLA in fabled Pauley Pavilion.

The Bruins (4-0) likely will be the only ranked team the Mocs (2-3) will face all season. UTC opened as a 23-point underdog in Las Vegas, which is where Wade's team will end its current road trip with games against Morehead State and then either IUPUI or Gardner-Webb.

"They're huge, and they're extremely skilled and talented," Wade said of the Bruins. "They have good players, a good scheme and a good coach. We're going to get prepared and play as hard as we possibly can and see if we can challenge them."

UTC certainly challenged the Wolfpack. The Mocs led for most of the game with Mason bruising his way, guards driving to the goal and their full-court press creating some confusion. A 3-pointer by Mason with 22 seconds left lifted UTC to an 81-80 advantage.

But three combined turnovers and two missed free throws by Mason allowed Burton a chance to win the game. He did.

"We played hard last night," Mason said while waiting for the flight to Southern California. "We'll take away the positives. It was a buzzer-beater. It was a tough loss to digest. But it's a quick turnaround to play UCLA."

It's similar to the Thursday-Saturday schedule that UTC faces during the Southern Conference season. There are only 48 hours between games. The difference on this trip involves air travel instead of just buses.

"It's getting us prepared for conference play," Mason said. "You have to block everything out and prepare for the next game."

The next game included UTC's best opponent.

Contact David Uchiyama at duchiyama@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6484. Follow him at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.