UTC Mocs maintain routine with non-conference basketball game coming

UTC Mocs maintain routine with non-conference basketball game coming

February 3rd, 2014 by David Uchiyama in Sports - College

Will Wade

Photo by Doug Strickland/Times Free Press.

UTC guard Gee McGhee (12) dribbles the ball in towards the net during the second half of the UTC versus Furman men's basketball game on Saturday, January 1, 2014, at McKenzie Arena in Chattanooga. The Mocs won 67-52.

Photo by Erin O. Smith/Times Free Press.

Will Wade had already moved on to the next game by noon on Sunday.

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga coach had watched clips from the Mocs' 67-52 stifling win over Furman the night before and had his sights set on Tuesday's game at Eastern Kentucky.

"We're treating it like every other game," Wade said from his office in McKenzie Arena. "I'm sitting here watching film. We'll have a game plan this afternoon. We'll go about it like our normal prep."

There is very little that's normal about playing a non-conference game in early February. Wade and EKU coach Jeff Neubauer tried to re-schedule the game for November or December. But they couldn't match dates, so they had to leave the return game for EKU visiting McKenzie last season on its original date.

"It's a little bit different," Wade said. "The only thing that's comparable is the BracketBusters."

ESPN did away with the made-for-TV series pitting mid-major schools against each other this season. More than 100 schools had signed up but only about 10 games were shown on the network. The others were usually between schools in close proximity like UTC and EKU which is about four hours away in Richmond, Ky.

The opportunity presents UTC another road test against comparable competition -- EKU (16-7, 7-3) is in second place in the Ohio Valley Conference -- before returning to Southern Conference play on Saturday at Samford. The Mocs are 4-7 on the road this year and were blasted 91-54 at Davidson on their last road trip.

"It's another chance for us to improve and play a really good team," Wade said. "The last time we went on the road we didn't play very well."

But the Mocs bounced back with a convincing win over the Paladins on Saturday indicating that the Davidson loss should be a one-game blip.

Their full-court pressure stifled Furman point guard Stephen Croone. UTC forced 19 turnovers including a 10-second count and a 5-second count trying to inbound the ball. It's probably the best UTC has played its pressure defense all season.

"We were ready to get after it [Saturday]," said sophomore Casey Jones who led all players with 18 points. "We came out with energy, and that's part of the pressing."

The Mocs would like a repeat performance of their defense on Tuesday. But Wade would like better offensive execution and better rebounding after Furman matched them with 36 each on Thursday.

"I'm more concerned about our rebounding than our shooting," he said. "We're not getting as many second chances as we were. When you take poor shots, guys aren't where they're supposed to be to rebound. It all goes hand in hand."

Wade and his team broke a little from their Sunday routine to watch the UTC wrestling team face Appalachian State. A few players enjoyed the free pizza wrestling coach Heath Eslinger provided for the student section. Then they attended an early study hall so the players could enjoy the Super Bowl.

"I'll probably move my TV to the living room and the guys come over," Mason said Saturday night. "I'm sure we'll have some kind of get-together."

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