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Staff Photo by Laura-Chase McGehee/Chattanooga Times Free Press - Mocs senior guard Troy Cage sets up for a foul shot during the UTC's recent game with Jackson State.

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga coach John Shulman considered giving his team the day off today.

They'll have a team meeting and then go from there. It could be a short meeting followed by practice. Or it could be a long meeting followed by shooting drills.

He'll make a meeting-time decision.

The Mocs (2-5) could certainly use some rest after falling 80-59 at Florida International on Saturday, and flying from Miami to Charlotte to Chattanooga doesn't exactly qualify as a full day of rest.

"We've had a crazy schedule, and that's not an excuse but reality," Shulman said. "In a weeks' period we've gone from an unbelievable win [at Marshall on a last-second play] and feeling really good, to that it feels like a month ago, last season.

"In a week, we've taken a step back."

The Mocs never really had a chance against the Panthers who are coached by Indiana University and NBA legend Isiah Thomas.

The Mocs started sluggish, falling behind by 10 points in the first half and never mounted a challenge after the break.

"We came out with no energy, and we looked like we lost our fight," senior forward Troy Cage said over the phone from the Charlotte airport. "We had two great practices on Friday and we looked great and defended well.

"Then we came out dead, they got an early lead and we couldn't get it back."

Thomas utilized a four-guard lineup -- sometimes five -- against UTC, which tried to stay with its usual system of three guards and two post players. That left UTC centers DeAntre Jefferson and 7-foot-1 Jeremy Saffore defending players listed at 6-2 and 6-3 on the perimeter.

"It's about who gets the upper-hand first," Shulman said. "They got 6-3 guards and our bigs weren't able to guard their littles."

Again, that's not an excuse, just reality that UTC played with dead legs and little energy.

"They could have had five bigs out there and it wouldn't have mattered," Cage said. "We're not guarding the ball, and our defense [stinks] right now."

The end result is a three-game losing streak that includes a 41-point loss at Louisville, a 12-point loss at home to Jackson State, and a 21-point loss at FIU, after which, Shulman said the Mocs, "laid an egg."

"I don't think we're at a real good point," Shulman said, while waiting for the flight home. "I think it's time to look in the mirror and take a long look at each other and themselves."

No matter their level of activity today, the Mocs have three days to prepare for Appalachian State in their first game of the Southern Conference slate.

"It's not a time to keep beating them down," Shulman said. "It's early enough in the season where they need to take responsibility for their own actions. Individually, we have to get better to make the team better."

As junior guard Omar Wattad pointed out, the Mocs have not lost a SoCon game yet and the calendar has not even flipped to December. So even though the Mocs haven't played well in their last three games, there is time to get their adrift ship back on course.

"We're still together and we're still here for each other," Wattad said. "Everybody is still on the same page with each other. We care enough to turn this thing around."

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

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