The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's basketball team will play its final scheduled non-conference game of the season tonight at 7:30 at Georgia Tech.
It's a game, but it's also a break for the Mocs after a difficult stretch. It's a chance to play without the after-effects of illness or the pressure to maintain a lead in the division standings. It's a chance just to play without the result having ramifications on the end of the season.
"I like out-of-conference games late in the season because it adds a little spice, it gets you back enthused to play," UTC senior DeAntre Jefferson said. "It's a different team, an ACC team. This game is more about us figuring what we have to do to win the SoCon.
"We want to come out with a 'W' because at the end of the day it's a game."
Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt doesn't mind playing a nonconference game this time of year—especially one against a school from a one-bid league.
"When you put this game on the schedule at this time of the year, you don't really want a break, you just want to keep playing," Hewitt said. "You don't really want a week off."
The Yellow Jackets have lost five straight games, all to Atlantic Coast Conference competition. This is their chance to get a winning feeling again, something they've felt only 10 times this season—far below usual expectations.
"We're in a tailspin, obviously, and we need to come out on Wednesday ready to play and try to build some momentum for ourselves," Hewitt said. "Chattanooga has a good ball club and they're having a good year."
It hasn't been very good lately. The Mocs have lost two straight games and witnessed their North Division lead shrink to a half-game over Western Carolina and two over Appalachian State. Those two will play Thursday at ASU.
Tonight's game will have no impact on those standings.
"We have to leave Atlanta better, whatever that means," Mocs coach John Shulman said. "I think it's a good diversion where we don't feel like our lives are hanging in the balance. It seems that every game we've played the last two games have been life or death.
"Maybe we can relax a bit and just play a basketball game."
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...