published Monday, December 31st, 2012

Bruised Mocs battle on: The men's basketball team has a three-game win streak despite setbacks

  • photo
    UTC’s Zaccheus Mason, left, led the short-handed Mocs to the Dr Pepper Classic championship last weekend at McKenzie Arena.
    Photo by Allison Love /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The Scrappy mascot is apparently appropriate for this season's version of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga basketball team.

The term scrappy, as in the definition of combining scraps, disconnected pieces, and odds and ends, applies to the Mocs basketball team which is down to 10 healthy players and won the Dr Pepper Classic on Saturday.

"I think Chattanooga has accepted who they are," said Utah Valley coach John Hunsaker, whose team lost 76-69 to the Mocs in the championship game Saturday. "They're a team that is going to be limited with their offensive abilities and offense in the half-court.

"But they compete their hearts out and play together."

The Mocs have been scrappy. They've had to be that and will need to continue to be that in Wednesday's game at Georgia Tech and in the ensuing Southern Conference season.

"We played every defense we have in the first half," said coach John Shulman, whose mascot is named in honor of former football coach Andrew 'Scrappy' Moore. "What makes this fun is that we're doing everything by committee and doing everything as a team. This was a team win, and [Friday] night was a team win.

"Everybody has a role."

Those roles have evolved and changed since the summer when senior point guard Dontay Hampton tore his right ACL. Ronrico White moved from shooting guard to point guard for the first 11 games of the season.

Then sophomore post player Lance Stokes broke his foot, moving UTC's first post player off the bench to the end of the bench after three games.

UTC dropped to 10 healthy players when freshman small forward Casey Jones broke his tibia in the last game before Christmas. That forced Shulman to start freshman point guard Farad Cobb and move White to the 3-spot.

The results worked over the weekend. UTC, rated No. 285 in the RPI on Sunday, beat two comparable teams to claim the championship. High Point was rated No. 310 and Utah Valley ranked No. 234.

The Mocs (5-8) won with freshman guard Gee McGhee grabbing nine rebounds, reserve forward Martynas Bareika slowing down UVU shooter Holton Hunsaker in man-to-man scenarios, and with walk-on point guard Alex Bran scoring nine points in 12 minutes of playing time.

"I thought they played unselfishly and shared the ball," Hunsaker said. "How that will translate into Southern Conference play, I don't know. But there was no quit in them throughout the tournament. I thought they had a lot of fight, and they worked very hard for their wins."

about David Uchiyama...

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 ...

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