published Thursday, November 28th, 2013

Mocs shift from bright lists of Hollywood to bright lights of the desert

Vegas, baby.

It's where losers are more prevalent than winners.

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is in Las Vegas as team with two games to play as part of the Las Vegas Invitational with the first coming today at 5 p.m. EST against Morehead State.

Like anybody sitting down at a blackjack table, the odds are against the Mocs today. But the odds were against UTC on Friday in Reno when the Mocs led by one at Nevada with two seconds remaining. Then Nevada guard busted UTC with a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

The odds for UTC were worse on Sunday when they UCLA in Pauley Pavilion where the Mocs played out of character and UCLA won by 41.

Like the Santa Monica Pier which the Mocs visited on Monday -- leading sophomore guard Casey Jones to say, "I took pictures of the beach and some videos of random stuff they were doing out there," -- those games are in the rearview mirror.

The lesson plan of the last two practices has been to learn, improve and forget those games.

"UCLA didn't hurt as bad," Jones said over the phone as the team bus headed out of Southern California. "It was just a bad day. We didn't play our game. We didn't play like we usually do."

But the UCLA loss still stung on Tuesday. Yet bright lights eventually appeared on the horizon.

"We knew everything UCLA was going to do and we didn't guard," junior forward Lance Stokes said from the bus. "I think we all need to get back in practice to doing what we do well -- run the floor, press, and play defense."

Other planned objectives for the two practices heading into today's game, according to coach Will Wade, included rebounding, close-out drills and a press that the Eagles will play. Some mental healing needed to be done as well.

"I'm not worried," Wade said from the bus. "We're resilient. We'll bounce back. We have to get things corrected."

The end of Wednesday's schedule for the Mocs included a team dinner at an Argentinian steak house. The Mocs don't have one of those close to campus.

Then focus shifts back from camaraderie and team-building back to basketball. Morehead State (5-2) appears to be a superior team.

Four of its wins have come against Division I teams including a 63-58 win at Nevada on Sunday. MSU center Chad Posthumus ranks No. 2 in the nation in offensive rebounding which scares Wade a little bit. The Eagles also do other things well which could send the Mocs into Friday's game against either IUPUI or Gardner-Webb with more questions.

"[Posthumus] is Challenge No. 1 because he's big and has a great motor," Wade said. "That's going to be a big-time challenge for us. Their point guard [Angelo Warner] is unbelievably quick, and we'll have to be good in our transition defense. They have two guys [Warner and Brent Arrington] who are tremendous shooters. We'll have to limit their 3s."

If not, the Mocs could bust playing their first game Vegas.

Contact David Uchiyama at duchiyama@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6484. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.

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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