Zaccheus Mason has never heard of the Zac Brown Band.
But he could thank them. The award-winning country group delayed the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's Southern Conference basketball game at UNC Greensboro from Saturday to today, giving the Mocs extra time to deal with their problems while preparing for the Spartans.
"I feel like everybody is relaxed about the game and has put the last game behind us," Mason said over the phone. "I feel like it's the most important game of the season. It's the next game and it's a chance to get us back on track."
The track has been turbulent.
UTC (8-12, 3-4) welcomed the return of senior point guard Dontay Hampton from knee surgery on Jan. 10. Then he broke his hand on Jan. 17 yet played in the next game just 48 hours later. Then Hampton reinjured his knee in an 85-61 loss at Elon on Thursday.
Coach John Shulman said Friday that Hampton's career likely is over. But on Saturday he said, "The swelling is going down, but your guess is as good as mine. We look like an infirmary out there."
Shulman kept freshman point guard Farad Cobb out of the game Thursday following his Monday arrest for under-age drinking and disorderly conduct.
"He's living with the disappointment that he caused," said Shulman, who will decide today whether Cobb plays. "He's had a tough week. I wouldn't say his mind is 100 percent on basketball."
Junior forward Sam Watson injured his back Thursday, Shulman said, but should be able to play against the Spartans.
And sophomore forward Lance Stokes, who missed 14 games with a broken foot, has been practicing at small forward instead of power forward. It's another bump on the season's rugged road.
"I don't believe that this is last year's team," Shulman said. "We have to help these kids figure it out. We have to help them."
But Shulman and his staff cannot be on the floor today defending the UNCG tandem of Trevis Simpson and Derrell Armstrong -- the Spartans' best players.
Sophomore guard Ronrico White, who likely will move back to playing the point, said he's aware of the Spartans' strength.
"The key for us to beat UNCG is to contain their wings," White said. "If we defend those guys to the best of our ability and get easy buckets, we should be fine."
Each SoCon game counts the same in the standings. Well, division games have more tiebreaking implications, but they're all the same. Yet some games can have a lasting impact, especially when the team has an entire week between games, like UTC has ahead.
With their leader down, coming off a 24-point loss, having a freshman arrested, a sophomore playing out of position and another freshman -- a starter -- on crutches in Casey Jones, the Mocs' game today seems extra important.
"It's never too late," Shulman said. "The only time it gets too late is when you're on I-40 coming back from Asheville [after the conference tournament]."
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 ...