KNOXVILLE - Fresh thoughts and observations from UTC's 76-63 loss at Tennessee.
I never heard the word "dadgummit" growing up in California and rarely heard it in college at Indiana University. But it's become a go-to curse word when traditional cussing just isn't the right thing to say or do.
(Sorry, Mom, I do say worse things at times.)
I've grown to learn that "dadgummit" is just as versatile as the mother of cuss words. It can be used quickly like when you slam on the brakes to avoid a car accident. It can be used in surprise like when the gas machine crosses the $50 mark at the pump.
And it can be used in times of frustration and surprise at the same time. "Dadgummit, I just ran out of propane with burgers on the grill."
UTC coach John Shulman and his players didn't use the word in their postgame interviews Monday night. But Shulman standing with his hands on his head, the frowns on players' faces while slapping-five in the second half, and glances at the scoreboard from assistant coaches screamed every possible version of the doggone word.
Dadgummit, UTC could have won. Maybe should have won against Tennessee
Beating the Volunteers in anything is a big deal to UTC - golf, hoops, cross country, even a Cracker Barrel checkers championship - which requires the signature of the UT system president on all coaching contracts.
And Monday provided the Mocs with their best opportunity to win their biggest nonconference game on the schedule of any year.
Beating the likes of Indiana or Butler would certainly be a feather in their cap. But UTC fans harbor no ill will against once-in-awhile foes.
To the Blue and Gold, orange is awful - or am I way wrong?
TFP columnist Mark Wiedmer delves more into the missed opportunity in this column.
UTC always yearns for a win over the school that stole "Rocky Top."
Now I can't get that song out of my head - dadgummit.
I'm not surprised by the Vols taking 39 3-pointers or making 13 of them.
Shulman told me that was UTC's game plan some 24 hours before the bus headed north on I-75. He wanted to prevents layups and one-on-one post moves.
That's always the game plan. It has been since he took the job before the 2004-05 season. He's ebbed and flowed a bit on "Fire," which is the double-team on the post, and didn't call for it much last year. But it's back in full force like a four-alarm fire.
UT attempted more 3s on Monday than all but one game since the 3-point shot was introduced in 1980.
The College of Charleston set its school record with 43 attempts in a double-overtime win over UTC in December. It broke the previous mark of 39 set against the Mocs in an 86-70 win by UTC in December 2007.
Shulman won two SoCon tournament championships playing the "Fire" defense.
So it likely will be burning all season long.
The UTC starting lineup Monday consisted of four seniors and a junior, which is a good start toward success.
But (dare I say, "dadgummit?" at the opportunity) the bench need to produce more than four points and seven rebounds in 42 minutes for the Mocs to beat UT at UT.
Shulman joked after the game that UT director of basketball operations Houston Fancher has a file full of UTC's play calls from his days as head coach at Appalachian State.
Shulman didn't call for very many set plays Monday. He preferred sticking to the motion offense.
Yet I do remember one specific play, just called "B" for Omar Wattad. He scored on a difficult post move to pull UTC within eight points with six minutes to play.
UTC did not sink a field goal after that.
The Mocs scored only four free throws in the final six minutes.
UTC will re-open SoCon play Thursday night against Western Carolina and then play two more home SoCon games.
Will Chris Early be dressed for any of them?
There were no new answers, not even a mention of his name in the postgame pressers.
I'm not making any guesses here, or even any suggestions. This, in my opinion, is up to Shulman and his seniors. We will know Early's status with the team sometimes before tipoff Thursday.
Shulman has indicated that Early certainly will be welcomed to complete his degree at UTC. Somebody in Early's circle of friends told me (before Christmas) that graduating is certainly a goal he would like to accomplish.
For all Early has been through in his life, getting a college degree would be a pretty cool story - dadgummit (the word can also be used in a positive light as well), he could say, "I did it."
There are two topics to hit here.
Early - It's time for Shulman to make a decision. What would you do?
The Vols - Would Mocs fans prefer to beat an unranked UT team or a ranked BCS-conference team?
Contact David Uchiyama at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6484.