published Saturday, February 23rd, 2013

Chattanooga Mocs try to regroup quickly

Chattanooga head coach John Shulman talks from the sideline.
Chattanooga head coach John Shulman talks from the sideline.
Contributed Photo

John Shulman received a text from a friend following his University of Tennessee at Chattanooga basketball team's 94-68 loss Thursday night to UNC Greensboro.

It read, "The sun will come up tomorrow."

But on a dreary, gray day in Chattanooga, Shulman hadn't seen the sun by the time he prepared for the daily team meeting.

"It's probably that gloomy, and the gloomiest part of the season by a landslide," Shulman said Friday. "There was a lot on the line last night. We were one game out of the [Southern Conference tournament's final] bye with a win in a year everything had gone wrong and we were still hanging in there."

The Mocs (11-17, 6-9) may not have hit rock bottom for the season, but they certainly hit an emotional low with three regular-season games remaining. Those begin tonight at 7:30 in McKenzie Arena against North Division-leading Elon (19-8, 12-3), following the league-leading UTC women's 5 p.m. game.

"I've got used to bouncing back," said senior Drazen Zlovaric, who will be honored before the game with injured fellow senior Dontay Hampton and walk-on junior Drew Baker, who is retiring due to constant knee problems. Managers Jared Hawkins, Brett Stuart, Brian Murphy also will be honored.

"What happened last night, and to regroup and play a tough game tomorrow, I don't think it's too hard with how much experience we have with that," Zlovaric said. "It's unfortunate and frustrating and everything, but that's life."

These Mocs have responded to losing their senior point guard -- twice -- plus a starting forward and their first post player off the bench to injuries and two four-game losing streaks.

They've been heartbroken by three points or less twice and whipped by 16 or more six times, including Thursday when Nicholas Paulos scored 30 points by sinking 10 3-pointers, including six in six possessions in one stretch.

The Spartans shot 20-of-36 from behind the arc and set a school record with their most 3s in a game, and they tied the record of Creighton hitting 20 3s against UTC in 2005.

"When you can't stop the bleeding, it's a bad feeling," Shulman said. "We have squeezed an awful lot out of our kids."

What's left?

"That's what worries me," Shulman said. "Last night really stung in a variety of ways. They made shot after shot and we didn't have an answer. It just didn't feel like a home game last night when things went crazy."

The Mocs started down the final stretch of the SoCon season with meetings Friday afternoon and a scheduled dinner at the Shulman residence in the evening.

"We're going to prepare for Elon, get ready for two tough road games, then get ready for Asheville and the tournament," guard Ronrico White said. "Last year, it was, 'This has been a long season and let's try to finish it off the right way.' This team, we're in it for each other. We still have great opportunities to do what we want to do."

Shulman shifted the daily schedule Friday out of necessity.

"Guys are exhausted mentally and physically. We'll talk about it; then they'll come over for a family dinner," Shulman said. "We just need it."

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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