published Friday, December 16th, 2011

Mocs know 3s crucial against No. 3

  • photo
    UTC men's basketball coach John Shulman reacts during a game against Gardner-Webb in November.
    Photo by John Rawlston /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Stephen McDowell and Keddric Mays shot and made more 3-pointers than anyone else in the Division I history of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga basketball program.

Unfortunately for coach John Shulman, they're not part of his current Mocs, who will play Saturday night at 8 at nationally third-ranked Kentucky.

Shulman could use them. He could use all UTC legends in their prime against what he called the most talented team -- not best, because that's the 2006-07 Florida squad -- his troops have ever faced.

"They've got men," Shulman said of the Wildcats. "They may be freshmen and sophomores in class, but they have men inside."

Action around the 3-point line is playing a critical role in the Mocs' preparation.

For an upset to occur, UTC will need to make more than its fair share of treys and force the Cats to take and miss more than they normally do. UK attempted only seven 3s in its dramatic one-point loss at Indiana last Saturday.

"That line is important to us on both ends," Shulman said. "Pick your poison. Hopefully we can make them shoot some 3s and they miss some 3s."

Mays and McDowell sank many of their 3s by coming around a double-screen on the right wing on a designed play and hitting an open attempt.

"We haven't even put that play in," said UTC senior shooting guard Ricky Taylor, who will go through graduation ceremonies in McKenzie Arena before driving up to Rupp Arena on Saturday.

Kentucky averages 9.3 blocked shots per game. UTC has blocked 13 shots in 10 games. Scoring inside with Drazen Zlovaric and the other post players will be a difficult task for UTC.

So the 3-point shot may be UTC's best chance to score against the Cats, especially when the Mocs run their base "3-motion" ball-screen offense.

"You're trying to figure out where can we score and where can we keep them from scoring," Shulman said. "They're unbelievable in transition, they're unbelievable in the half-court and they defend. That's a problem."

UTC has made 37.1 percent of its 3-point attempts in 10 games so far. Of the players who have attempted 20 or more this season, only Keegan Bell has hit less than 37.5 percent of his attempts. He's at 25 percent. Taylor, Chris Early, Dontay Hampton and Ronrico White are shooting 40 percent or better from beyond the arc. Early is 10-of-19 against Division I teams.

"We have a lot of people that knock down the 3, and we have to make sure we take good shots and hit the open ones," said Early, who will have a few supporters make the two-hour drive to Lexington from his hometown of Huntington, W.Va. "We also can't foul as much, and we've got to be better on rebounding.

"That will give us a chance, along with our 3-point shooting."

Shulman said Kentucky is paying UTC $90,000 for this game, but he's looking at the opportunity as more than income.

"If you don't go in with a chance, then why go in?" Shulman said. "Will it be difficult? I'd say probably."

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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