published Saturday, January 28th, 2012

Mocs and Eagles meet tonight in McKenzie Arena after frustrating losses

  • photo
    UTC's Lance Stokes drives past Appalachian State's Jamaal Trice.

John Shulman and Charlton Young both felt a sense of discontent Friday.

Both coaches said their respective Southern Conference basketball teams should have won their games the night before.

Instead, Georgia Southern lost 57-55 at Samford in the final seconds while Shulman and his University of Tennessee at Chattanooga team lost 64-63 to Davidson.

"We should have won the game," Young said on the bus ride from Birmingham to Chattanooga. "Hats off the Samford. They pulled it out. All the numbers, except 17 turnovers, say we should win the game."

The two frustrated teams -- and the two friends -- will face each other for a second time this season tonight at 7:30 in McKenzie Arena.

"It's probably more difficult to deal with the disappointment than changing gears from facing one team to another, because defending is defending as long as you're not facing the triple-option of Samford," Shulman said Friday. "You want to get it out of your system. But anybody who got a good night's sleep didn't invest anything in the [Davidson] game.

"We're going to go in angry -- not down."

His Mocs (9-13, 3-6) may go into the game without their top two power forwards.

Reserve Zaccheus Mason aggravated a right knee injury Thursday. Starter Jahmal Burroughs pulled his right hamstring in the first half, resulting in UTC playing a four-guard lineup for about the final eight minutes.

"Jahmal's pulled hamstring doesn't seem terrible, but for Saturday's game he is 50-50," Shulman said. "Z just needs a few days to rest, and he hasn't gotten worse."

Shulman adjusted to the injuries by playing 3-point specialist Omar Wattad out of position in the final minutes of the game. Wattad inadvertently fouled Nik Cochran with 1.2 seconds left as he drove to the lane with the score tied, and Cochran hit the winning free throw.

The Mocs, who dropped to last place in the SoCon North Division, could play with a similar four-guard lineup against the fast-paced Eagles (8-12, 6-4).

The other option is playing freshman Lance Stokes or sophomore walk-on Drew Baker in place of the regulars.

"I always go in prepared to play no matter the situation," Stokes said before the daily team meeting Friday. "Knowing those two guys might be out, I'm getting my mind right to be prepared to play. I think it's more mental preparation and going over our stuff and what my opponent is going to do."

UTC and GSU have evolved since their initial matchup of the season. The Eagles won that game 84-76 on Dec. 1 in Hanner Fieldhouse. Since then, UTC has dismissed Chris Early, and the Eagles -- who play eight underclassmen -- have matured and tasted victory after a 1-17 SoCon season last year.

Young, who was Shulman's top assistant for UTC's 2005 championship season, now has the Eagles in the mix for a SoCon tournament bye from the South Division.

"I feel so bad for him with so many close games they've lost," Young said, "but we need to fight to stay in second place."

The Mocs are fighting to get out of last place.

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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