published Friday, January 3rd, 2014

Chattanooga Mocs trending upward heading into SoCon season

  • photo
    Ronrico White (11) of UTC runs to regain control of the ball during the basketball game between UTC and Maine in the Dr Pepper Classic at McKenzie Arena at UTC in this file photo. The Mocs won the tournament.
    Photo by Maura Friedman /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

If two is a trend, then three is certainly a streak.

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga won the Dr Pepper Classic earlier this week by defeating Division I teams back to back for the first time this season and will begin a long stretch of Southern Conference competition Saturday at Furman.

That's where the Mocs (6-8) will look to set a streak and continue the enjoyment that comes with winning basketball games.

"We feel great," said junior Ronrico White, who went 5-for-5 from the 3-point line Monday in an 86-80 win over Maine in the championship game. "That's something we needed to jump-start us heading into conference season.

"Everything is better when you're winning. We're always laughing and joking around; it's better when you add winning to the equation."

Just adding White to the rotation has made life a little better for coach Will Wade and the rest of the Mocs. He is one of three upperclassmen on scholarship. White adds experience and quality 3-point shooting and allows freshman point guard Greg Pryor a few more minutes to rest during games.

UTC is 3-2 this season when White plays. He made his season debut after offseason hip surgery to fix labrum and cartilage damage on Dec. 10 against Hiwasseee. He played 24 minutes at Northern Kentucky, five minutes at UAB and then 21 against Grand Canyon on Sunday and 25 on Monday.

"It helps with depth," said Wade, who had to play two December road games without senior center Zaccheus Mason due to injury but welcomed him back for the Dr Pepper Classic. "We need four scorers to reach double figures every game.

"Having [White back] gives us a chance to have more scorers. We have more pingpong balls in the lottery."

For the last two games, the Mocs have been at full strength -- except for walk-on Jay Wimbley -- for the first time this season. And they won both games.

Their trend is upward heading into the SoCon season after a long holiday break in which players were by themselves on campus and for a few days back home with family. Wade has sent the team out to dinner on several occasions instead of providing meal money for the players to go their separate ways.

"Our guys are getting closer as a group, our preparation has been better and they understand what goes into winning," Wade said. "We're getting closer, they're loving each other, they're being better teammates and assist numbers are going up.

"We understand how to prepare to win. Now we have to take it on the road. That's the next step of our development."

That's the next step of creating a streak.

Contact David Uchiyama at duchiyama@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6484. Follow him 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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