published Thursday, February 7th, 2013

Chattanooga Mocs focus on better game start

The scoreboard in McKenzie Arena will read Chattanooga 0, The Citadel 0 when the basketball Mocs begin their Southern Conference game against the Bulldogs tonight.

But the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga may pretend it has zero points and the Bulldogs have 20.

The Mocs play better when they're down, and they've been better in the second half as of late.

"We're trying to figure that out," senior Drazen Zlovaric said. "We've been playing good in the second half. I wish I knew why."

UTC (8-14, 3-6) allowed Georgia Southern to score 17 points in the first five minutes of the Eagles' 59-57 win on Saturday. Then the Mocs held GSU to 11 points over the final 16:13 after digging themselves into a 21-point hole.

The Mocs trailed by 10 points in the second half at The Citadel on Jan. 10 but rallied to win 70-65. UTC also rallied from 19 points down with 6:36 to go and beat Appalachian State in overtime.

"By us being a young team, we come out more relaxed than we should, and once the game gets into crunch time, everybody feels a sense of urgency that we should feel at the start of the game," junior forward Zaccheus Mason said. "It's hurt the whole season by coming out slow. We have to come out and play hard in the first 10 minutes like we do in the last 10 minutes of the game."

UTC coach John Shulman hinted Tuesday that he will try something different early against the Bulldogs, because what the Mocs have been doing hasn't worked. UTC has trailed at halftime in its last six games with the only win in that span coming against ASU.

"We're going to keep fiddling around and do things differently," Shulman said. "You're a mad scientist. You have to try this and that -- try a different lineup, try a different defense.

"We still have bullets in the gun. We're going to try a different bullet Thursday. If it works, we'll run with it. If not, we'll try something else."

Bulldogs coach Chuck Driesell made a change by shortening his rotation and limiting four reserves to a total of 20 minutes in the last two games -- both victories. The Bulldogs (6-15, 3-8) beat Wofford by six last Thursday and won 84-79 at Furman on Saturday when all five starters scored at least 11 points.

"The core starters have done a nice job of playing together," Driesell said on the bus ride to Chattanooga. "There's an air of confidence -- not overconfidence -- but we have something cool going here and let's keep it going."

Mike Groselle leads the Bulldogs with 15 points per game. The Mocs limited him to 13 during their meeting in McAlister Fieldhouse. But Matt Van Scyoc scored 20 points and was 5-of-10 from the 3-point line.

"He's been playing well even though he's become a target for other teams," Driesell said. "He's seen a lot of different defenses and he's learning to deal with that. It's a compliment. When you watch him out there, it looks like he's having fun."

Leading at halftime may be fun for UTC.

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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