CHARLESTON, S.C. — University of Tennessee at Chattanooga players were speaking up Saturday.
Senior Dontay Hampton, after playing in his second game of the season, addressed his team after a humbling 86-59 loss at the College of Charleston.
A freshman, Gee McGhee, spoke his mind to coach John Shulman about fifteen minutes later.
"I'm sitting on the floor in the hallway, and Gee comes back from talking to [the media] and he says, 'Coach, get up,'" Shulman said. "'We're going to be OK, we're going to be just fine."
McGhee is almost always all-smiles.
"I walked into the locker room, and Tay is leading the post-game tirade," Shulman said. "When you have Tay leading the tirade the starting freshman 2-man saying, 'We'll be all right,' then we'll be all right."
The Mocs (7-10, 2-2 SoCon) were closer to awful than all right on Saturday. And the Cougars were closer to great than good in the same game. They played like the team that won at Baylor instead of the squad that lost a non-Division I game.
That fact was apparent 181 seconds into the game when Shulman called for time which broke up a stretch of UTC scoring one basket in its first 12 possessions resulting in a 20-2 deficit.
A white-bearded fan wearing shorts an knee-high white socks seated in the second row stopped berating Charleston coach Doug Wojcik after the Cougars' fast start. The man was probably still upset after watching Samford beat the Cougars on Thursday with an 18-4 run to finish the game and win by five.
"To me, it's about our progress," Wojcik said. "We learned from Thursday. It's not always going to go this way. It did, and that's good, especially against [UTC]. They are talented and could easily be in the finals of the SoCon tournament in March."
Shulman headed into Thursday's game at The Citadel looking for a split on the two-game road trip to the (possible) birthplace of shrimp-and-grits.
After coming back from a 10-point deficit in the second half against the Bulldogs, Shulman got a little greedy and wanted the elusive SoCon road sweep.
UTC won the game it should have won, and lost the one it was expected to lose. When seedings are revealed for the SoCon tournament in March, a last minute win counts as much in the win column as much as a 27-point loss counts against a team.
But during the season, the impact of either can be tangible. UTC entered the Charleston (11-5, 3-1) game with five wins in its previous six games with the loss coming at Georgia Tech. The Mocs were feeling so good on Friday that a couple players were sun-bathing in 75-degree weather outside the team hotel.
"Momentum has to slip a little bit," Shulman said. "It's up to me as to how much it slips. I've learned from the years that one game counts as one game."
The next game is Thursday at home against Appalachian State. The next practice is today.
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 ...