Mocs not yet in "must-win" mode for early SoCon stretch - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Mocs not yet in "must-win" mode for early SoCon stretch

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CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- John Shulman is very careful with his words as he prepares his University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's basketball team to embark on a stretch of 16 consecutive Southern Conference games to end the season.

After starting the SoCon slate with December losses at College of Charleston and Georgia Southern, an 0-2 league mark leaves less room for error moving forward.

"If you label a game as a 'must-win' and you don't win it, why even play the rest of the schedule?" Shulman said Wednesday. "We started 0-3 in the league in '09 and still won it, so I just say these games are important.

"Each one of them is equally important, but must win? I don't think that kind of pressure is good for anyone involved."

Luckily the first three of those "important" games, starting with Thursday's 7 p.m. ET tip with Western Carolina, will come in the friendly confines of McKenzie Arena.

UTC is 6-2 on its home floor this year, though three of those wins have come against non-Division I opponents, compared to 0-7 away from home.

Shulman believes the winless road mark is less a result of how his team is playing away from McKenzie Arena, and more about who its been playing.

"You look at the last four we've played on the road: at Charleston, Mercer, Kentucky and Tennessee. Those are some pretty tough teams to beat on the road," he said. "Then you add Indiana and Butler earlier this year, we've played some tough teams on the road."

The tough matchups will continue to come in conference, but Shulman believes these will be a bit more on the Mocs' level. The veteran Mocs have been through the SoCon grind before, and they're gaining momentum after winning three of their final four non-conference tests.

"We're definitely back to the primary focus of the year," said junior forward Drazen Zlovaric. "I think we're in a good mindset right now. We were the ones picked to win this thing, so we have a lot to prove.

"I'm confident we can go in and beat anybody in this league."

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