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The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's basketball team is on a roll.

Georgia Southern, meanwhile, is reeling after three straight losses. But none of them were against Southern Conference competition.

"It's hard to tell how good we are because we have six new guys and four play a lot," GSU coach Jeff Price said. "I'm looking forward to the conference schedule to see what kind of team we have."

His Eagles (3-6, 1-0) and the Mocs (4-8, 0-1) begin their league schedules in earnest today at 5:30 p.m. in Hanner Fieldhouse after the schools' women's teams start a doubleheader at 3.

The guarantee wins and the gimme losses are in the past for both men's programs. UTC, at one point this season, had the most difficult schedule in the nation. GSU has faced the likes of Duke, Drake and Florida.

They're both ready to see how they compare.

"We're soft up front and that's our biggest problem," Price said. "We're just thin up front, but I think our guards are good."

The Mocs have one special guard - perhaps one of the best shooters in the nation, according to Price. Senior Stephen McDowell set a career high Tuesday night against Niagara with 38 points and tied the Mocs record with nine 3-pointers.

"I'm always concerned with McDowell," Price said. "We have to handle our own up front and they start five seniors, so they're a lot more experienced than us.

"McDowell is one of the players in this conference who can take over a game on his own."

But the conference season is 20 games long. Injuries can have an impact. Momentum can change games. And confidence can win them. The Mocs have confidence and momentum after beating Niagara 99-84.

"We have to focus on ourselves, and if we do what we're supposed to, which is playing Chattanooga ball," senior point guard Keyron Sheard said, "then we'll take care of our opponent."

The 15-point win over Niagara confirmed UTC coach John Shulman's belief in the Mocs' potential.

"We're ready for conference and I am excited for it," Shulman said. "I think we're pretty tested, and beating Niagara gave us confidence that when we can trust each other on the court, we're pretty good.

"We didn't peak that night because giving up 84 isn't us."

Today's game will go a long way in determining UTC's identity, win or lose.

"This is our second game in the SoCon," senior forward Khalil Hartwell said, "and we'd like the young guys to feel what winning in the SoCon is like. It's different."

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