UTC Mocs treating Eastern Kentucky game like SoCon contest

UTC Mocs treating Eastern Kentucky game like SoCon contest

February 4th, 2014 by David Uchiyama in Sports - College

UTC forward Lance Stokes attempts a free throw shot during the Wofford versus UTC game on Jan. 11, 2014, in Chattanooga.

Photo by Erin O. Smith/Times Free Press.

UTC forward Z. Mason (30) looks to pass the ball against Elon.

Photo by Erin O. Smith/Times Free Press.

Do what you do.

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's basketball team has maneuvered through more than half of its Southern Conference schedule with only one loss against teams in its league.

Eastern Kentucky is comparable competition from another conference.

The Mocs (15-8, 9-1 SoCon) and EKU'S Colonels (16-7, 7-3 OVC) step out for an odd scheduling matchup tonight at 7 in Richmond, Ky. It's a game of value for both teams, even if it doesn't count in their league standings.

"I'm focusing more on being us and doing what we do and playing well," UTC coach Will Wade said as the team bus headed north. "I want to focus on us and playing with an attacking mentality.

"I want to shore up our own house as opposed to worrying about the other house."

UTC practiced for about 75 minutes Monday before loading the bus to EKU. Junior Lance Stoke noted that the Mocs are approaching this nonconference game in the same manner as if they were playing a SoCon opponent.

"We have the utmost focus for every game," Stokes said. "We're going to be just as focused and prepared as any other game."

It's a game in which UTC can improve its execution on offense and in its full-court press and showcase players other than post standout Zaccheus Mason.

"Coach Wade has done a great job with that group," EKU coach Jeff Neubauer said. "The personnel is similar to what we saw last year. But the schemes are new, and for them to be 9-1 in the SoCon is really impressive."

Playing out-of-conference games in February is not rare, but it is a little unusual.

"If you look at some games that were played over the weekend like Michigan State and Georgetown, it happens around the country," Neubauer said. "We've scheduled BracketBuster games and independents. It almost needs to happen."

The two teams -- should they win their conference tournaments -- could meet again in Dayton, Ohio, during the first phase of the NCAA tournament. It's a possibility.

Some NCAA tournament bracket projections have Davidson representing the SoCon. Some have UTC. Some have the Mocs in Dayton. Some have them or Davidson playing a No. 1 seed on the first Thursday or Friday of the opening week. Most have Belmont winning the OVC.

It's too far too early to know for sure. Both EKU and UTC have plenty of games and their respective conference tournaments to boost their NCAA resumes.

"It's a good test for us," UTC junior captain Ronrico White said. "When you're playing good people, it brings out the best in you."

Wade, in his first year, is looking for similar things. So is Neubauer.

"It should be a great basketball game, and it's a home-and-home that should happen," Neubauer said."We're looking for good teams that can come into our arena and play great basketball."

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