published Monday, January 13th, 2014

Chattanooga Mocs endure hard week to finish in first

UTC guard Martynas Bareika, right, looks for a foul call during the game against  Wofford on Saturday.
UTC guard Martynas Bareika, right, looks for a foul call during the game against Wofford on Saturday.
Photo by Erin O. Smith /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
  • photo
    UTC player Ronrico White (11) guards Wofford player Indiana Faithfull (11) during their game Saturday, January 11, 2014, in Chattanooga.
    Photo by Erin O. Smith /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Will Wade awoke in an unfamiliar position on Sunday.

He awoke with his University of Tennessee at Chattanooga basketball team in first place of the Southern Conference standings one-fourth of way the way through the conference season.

Then he did laundry. And returned text-messages with coaches and friends including Shaka Smart who is his former boss and head coach at Virginia Commonwealth. Then Wade relaxed -- a little bit.

"It's been a long week," Wade said. "We're all worn out. I'm trying to relax and get caught up on things at home. We're all trying to catch our breath."

It's been a busy week and a big week for the UTC program under Wade who, at 31-years-old, is the third youngest head coach in NCAA Division I hoops.

The Mocs (10-8, 4-0 Southern Conference) played and won four SoCon games in the span of eight days. They started the SoCon season with victories at Furman by pulling away in the last 10 minutes and at The Citadel by withstanding their blows.

Then UTC defended its home court with a last-minute win over Samford on Thursday. UTC followed that by hanging on for dear life in a 70-69 win over Wofford on Saturday after nearly throwing the game away after leading by 11 with 5:51 to play.

"I knew this about our guys, and it was reinforced last night," Wade said, "We've got to coach every possession and every detail. We can't leave anything to chance."

UTC's quick early-season SoCon schedule forced Wade and his staff to cut routine drills from daily practices in order to prepare for the upcoming opponent.

In Friday's preparation, Wade said, the Mocs trimmed their offensive playbook to about 35 plays while adding a handful of new plays to combat Wofford's sagging man-to-man defense.

"We did a good job of not wearing our guys out so they were able to play their hardest," Wade said. "It's really tough to do what they did yesterday."

Elements of practice that were cut for the 45-minute session on Friday included a fast-break drill and late-game situations.

Wade won't make that mistake again.

After building their lead, even while playing Wofford's preferred slow pace in the first half and speeding up the tempo in the second half, UTC almost lost the game in the final 13.9 seconds.

UTC led by five and had to inbound the ball. Karl Cochran stole the pass which eventually to two free throw by Jaylen Allen.

On the next inbound pass, Allen stole that, scored and was fouled which put him on the free-throw line with a chance to tie the game with 7.2 seconds left.

He missed. UTC sophomore guard Gee McGhee grabbed the rebound, and after a foul, headed to the line to give UTC a three-point lead. But he missed both shots.

Cochran took a pass and drove to the rim where he charged over UTC freshman guard Greg Pryor leaving the Mocs with the ball, a one-point lead and 1.1 seconds left.

"I never saw the kid [Pryor], and still haven't seen him," said Wofford coach Mike Young who asked opinions on the play after the game. "I wouldn't do anything different."

Young has a week to adapt. UTC plays at Wofford next Saturday. A game at Appalachian State on Thursday comes first on Thursday in Boone, N.C. It's a game that Wade -- after washing laundry -- began preparing for on Sunday which was a day off for the players, who will also not have to practice today.

"I'm glad we've got some time off," senior captain Zaccheus Mason said after Saturday's game. "It feels good to get this win."

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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