By Jeremy Acree
CHATTANOOGA, TENN. (UTC/The Loop) – After winning the Southern Conference Tournament and earning a trip to the NCAA Tournament last year, the men’s basketball team is in the midst of a transition year. All five starters are gone from last year, including leading scorer Stephen McDowell and leading rebounder Nicchaeus Doaks – both of which were named to All-SoCon teams last year. The 2009-10 Mocs have only one senior, Ty Patterson, on the roster.
To add to the regular difficulties of regrouping from year to year, Patterson was suspended for the first eight games of the year and three other upper classmen went out due to injury before even an exhibition game was played. But the Mocs still managed to start the season strong.
Easy wins against Virginia Intermont and Tennessee Wesleyan padded the confidence, but a victory over long-time rival East Tennessee State really got Coach John Shulman excited.
“Before the game I had no idea,” Shulman said after the ETSU game. “I had nothing to go on. We have a brand new team with four guys out, but we grew up in the second half.”
Conference play was a different story, however. The Mocs were pummeled, 82-63, by Elon in their first SoCon matchup of the year and as of Jan. 25, were on a four-game losing streak after falling to Wofford, 73-68.
“It’s different,” sophomore Keegan Bell said after the Elon game. “This was a conference game so there was more intensity.”
Conference play takes adjustment, but there have been bright spots as well. A six game winning streak at the start of the year included double-digit wins over SoCon foes. With inexperience and young players, time is the greatest asset.
“To be a good team you have to go through some adversity,” Shulman said. “We are going to grow, learn, and get better.”