ITTA BENA, Miss. — Without science, accounting our business management classes to worry about between semesters, Mocs basketball players have more time to improve their skills.
When University of Tennessee at Chattanooga coach John Shulman walked into McKenzie Arena shortly after sunrise last week, he saw his two star players practicing.
Senior post player Nicchaeus Doaks practiced at one end of the floor with senior guard Stephen McDowell at the other end.
“I said, ‘Y’all need to go on one end and shoot together,’” Shulman said. “I told Steph that we love what he’s doing, but we have to co-exist. I need to have Steph shooting open 3s and Nicchaeus scoring.”
Shooting together resulted in Doaks and McDowell playing better on Saturday in a 65-61 win at Mississippi Valley State. Doaks notched 21 point and McDowell scored 19 leading the Mocs (2-7) to their first Division I victory.
The senior stars helped the Mocs rally after a sluggish start by playing two-man basketball in their secondary fast-break.
Doaks set a screen for McDowell, received the pass and got fouled. On the next possession, Doaks set a screen and McDowell buried a 3-pointer giving UTC its first lead of the game.
“I got the ball where I’m comfortable instead of trying to penetrate,” Doaks said after the game. “And we saw what happened. I don’t know if I’m back, because I never felt I went anywhere.”
UTC will likely need superior performances from Doaks, McDowell and their Mocs teammates tonight when they play at Alabama. The Crimson Tide is 6-3 after playing a moderately soft schedule including a loss at home to Mercer to open the season.
Alabama features point guard Ronald Steele who dipped his toe into NBA draft waters before returning. He could be the 10th future NBA player the Mocs will face this season.
“They’re athletic, they’re unbelievable on the glass, but they’re not as skilled,” Shulman said. “We’ll go in there with an idea that we can win.”
For the fist time this season, the Mocs have confidence that they can win a game against a comparable squad. They defeated Tennessee Temple of the National Christian Collegiate Athletic Association by a score of 108-67. Simple talent and size advantages guaranteed a win in that game.
A victory was not guaranteed on Saturday at Mississippi Valley State even though the Delta Devils were 0-12 and playing their first home game of the season.
“Once we got stops,” McDowell said, “They could not score and that gave us confidence.”
Game operation officials were rusty. At least eight times a referee stopped play because either shot-clock or game-clock did not start.
And with the Mocs trailing by two with 6:32 to go, the refs stopped play because the padding underneath the basket came loose. When workers dropped the basket to eye level, a hip-high youngster sprinted to the goal with a ball as if he were to dunk it.
Shulman counted him as the 245th person in attendance.
“It felt more like high school,” said Ty Patterson, a transfer from Dodge City Community College. “Most juco places were bigger than this.”
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 ...