published Saturday, February 19th, 2011

UTC's Christopher expands offense

If she can camp out in the corner and shoot 3-pointers all game long, Kayla Christopher will gladly do it. But the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga sophomore, one of the top outside shooters in the Southern Conference, isn't getting the open looks that she did a year ago.

"It's been harder for me to get 3s off this year than it was last year because I'm more of a key player this year," Christopher said.

In her first season with the Lady Mocs, the 5-foot-9 guard from Oliver Springs made 56 3s, one shy of Brooke Hand's UTC freshman record. Heading into today's game at UNC Greensboro, Christopher has hit 55—her 111 career 3s are No. 8 all-time at UTC—but she's had to work harder to get open.

"Obviously we've got to make sure she keeps getting her shots," Lady Mocs coach Wes Moore said. "She's getting a lot of attention this year that last year Jenaya [Wade-Fray] got. With Kayla being a freshman she was kind of the unknown factor, and so it is tougher this year.

"Defenses are playing her differently and we don't have maybe quite as much scoring depth."

The Lady Mocs (13-13, 10-7) and UNC Greensboro (13-12, 10-7) are tied for fourth place in the SoCon standings. Christopher hit two of UTC's 11 3s against the Spartans in their first meeting this season, a 72-63 UTC win.

Despite the extra attention from defenses, Christopher is hitting 43 percent of her 3s—fourth best in the SoCon. Through nearly two full seasons her career 3-point percentage is .424, which is second on the Lady Mocs' all-time list.

Christopher was primarily a set shooter as a freshman, but she's expanded her game this season. She's driving to the basket more and often using a behind-the-back dribble near the top of the key to get free from her defender for a pull-up 10-foot jumper.

"I did it a lot in high school. It was like one of my go-to moves," she said. "I guess it's just happened more this year because I've needed to create my own shot more, but it's always been one of my go-to moves."

Moore said he likes seeing his second-leading scorer—Christopher is averaging 11.5 points per game—expand her game and become a threat to score from anywhere.

"She's always been good off the bounce with the pull-up jumpers, and she's pretty good at being able to create some space," he said. "There's a lot of times that the shot clock's running down and we'll go to her and she's capable of being able to get a shot up because of her ability to handle it some and change direction some."

Christopher had that chance Monday in the closing seconds against Appalachian State, but her pull-up 14-footer didn't fall in UTC's 57-56 loss.

"Those are the kinds of plays that come with experience," ASU coach Darcie Vincent said. "A year from now, she's making that shot."

Follow John Frierson on Twitter by following this link.

about John Frierson...

John Frierson is in his seventh year at the Times Free Press and seventh year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...

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