Thursday, April 17, 2014 · 5:49 a.m.

Wade, Mocs encouraged by team's direction

Chattanooga head coach Will Wade. (Photo: Billy Weeks)

Although the 67-52 final score didn’t show it, the Chattanooga men’s basketball team showed marked improvement in Wednesday night’s road loss to UAB. 

The Mocs didn’t shoot lights out, and they certainly didn’t dominate on the glass. They did, however, find a way to stay in a game in which they weren’t supposed to stand a chance, actually pulling to within 48-44 near the 11-minute mark of the second half. Not to mention, they did so without their only senior, Z. Mason, who just happens to be the squad’s leading scorer and rebounder. 

Chattanooga sophomore Casey Jones (Photo: Dale Rutemeyer)

In the players’ eyes, that lopsided final score—the result of a one-sided Blazer run in the closing minutes—seemed pretty much irrelevant. 

“Not to sound condescending, we’re not worried about what other people think,” junior Lance Stokes said. “We’re worried more about what we did [Wednesday], how we battled and how we played.”

Stokes, a 6-foot-7 forward, was right in the middle of that battle, too, doing all he could on the glass to slow the the Blazers’ far bigger front line. The numbers might not have shown it—UAB, the nation’s No. 1 rebounding team (48.4 rpg), held a 46-30 advantage on the glass—but Stokes, and the rest of the undersized Mocs battled in the post, made their opponents work for just about every one of them.

“I feel like we played our tails off, played hard up until the final buzzer,” said Stokes, who finished with five point and four rebounds. “The score may not show it, but we gave good effort.”

“I think we’ve just been getting better, and [Wednesday] definitely showed it,” sophomore Casey Jones added. “Coach says we’re taking steps, taking steps. The goal was not to win every game, the goal is to get better every game. We got better and that’s the goal.”

UTC head coach Will Wade coach concurs, and he credited that improvement to the team’s improved work in practice, particularly its attention to the finer aspects of the game. 

“We had two good days of practice heading into [UAB],” Wade said. “I talked to our guys about attention to detail. We’ve got to take care of the details. If we take care of it in practice it’ll help us on the game floor.

“Now we’ve got to go back, have two good days of practice, go home for Christmas, come back and have good days of practice leading up to the Dr Pepper Classic.”

In other words, the Mocs are nowhere near where Wade wants them to be. 

“This isn’t like the crescendo to the season,” Wade said. “We’ve got to keep building off it. We’ve got to keep practicing with that sort of focus.” 

Mason’s status still uncertain

Wade didn’t have an official timetable for Mason’s eventual return on Wednesday evening.  

The 6-foot-6, 235-pounder, who’s suffering from a broken big toe, has been sidelined for the last two games—both losses—with the injury. There’s a chance of him playing in this month’s Dr Pepper Classic—Wade said he’s “hopeful” of that—but nothing is guaranteed.

“We’ve just got to wait and see how it goes over Christmas break,” he added. 

Michael Murphy covers UTC athletics for Follow him on Twitter @MichaelNooga.

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