published Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

Chattanooga Mocs shrug off bad shooting in win

Casey Jones, left, drives the baseline against Martynas Bareika, center, and Zaccheus Mason (30).
Casey Jones, left, drives the baseline against Martynas Bareika, center, and Zaccheus Mason (30).
Photo by Tim Barber /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Freshman Casey Jones sat on the bench to lace up his white Nikes before basketball practice.

He asked coach John Shulman, who was in a good mood Tuesday, if they were going to watch tape of Monday night's game against Tennessee Temple. Jones and his University of Tennessee at Chattanooga teammates won 88-53.

"Yes, we are," Shulman said.

"Good, because I want to see it," Jones said.

Shulman leaned in close to Jones, touched his shoulders, smiled wide and said, "No, you don't," which left Shulman and several others laughing. Jones did, too, getting the joke.

"I was pumping you up, and pumping you up to everybody, and then you go out and do cartwheels," the coach joked.

"Do I look worried about it?"

Not one bit. Shulman had a long-term perspective at the moment with a short-term focus on the day's practice.

Jones could barely see past Monday night, when he played a yo-yo game, shooting 1-of-5 from the floor, getting two steals, an assist and a block, but fouling out in 18 minutes.

"Some of the mistakes I knew I made. Some of the mistakes I know I'm better than that," Jones said. "Some of them, I need to see them so I never do them again. I'm trying to see the mistakes. Forget the good parts."

Plenty of benefits came from the Mocs playing TTU, a National Christian College Athletic Association team that had Shulman worried Monday afternoon.

Most college basketball games against lower-level competition are minimally beneficial, yet Monday provided four UTC freshmen and four sophomores in bigger roles the chance to eradicate their nerves and build confidence.

Even though Shulman joked after the game that UTC needs new baskets and backboards because of all the bricks thrown -- the Mocs missed 20 of 22 3-pointers -- he didn't seem worried about repugnant shooting in the postgame news conference or before practice Tuesday.

Shooting is much lower on the priority list this year than last when UTC went 11-21 and did not win a road game. The Mocs shot 33.2 percent from the arc last year, which ranked them 11th out of 12 teams in the Southern Conference. If they shot well, they won or were close. If not, they were blown out.

This team likely will win and lose games with different variables than shooting percentages.

The results of the Mocs' defensive field-goal percentage, rebounding margin and free throws attempted will be much more indicative of success this season than 3-point shooting.

"In practice, we're preaching defense and rebounding and we're not getting up 100 shots in practice," said sixth-man sophomore forward Lance Stokes. "I feel that we went to the glass really well, we got it inside early and I think that's what Coach wants this team to be.

"Getting stops and pounding it inside and getting to the foul line are things we'll need to do all year."

It's improbable that UTC will have another 2-for-22 night (9.1 percent) from the arc again this season. The scholarship freshmen, playing in their first game, combined to go 2-for-17.

With sweaty palms, wide eyes, high heart rates and butterflies in the belly, the freshmen launched open shots that hit the sides of the backboard, clanked off the rims and, in some cases, missed everything.

Nerves should be calmer by virtue of just playing one game. Then again, the Mocs do play at No. 7 Kansas in legendary Allen Fieldhouse on Thursday. Their shooting can only improve.

"Eric [Robertson] is a knock-down shooter, and I can hit shots myself, but he's a knockdown guy and that will never happen again," Jones said. "Even with all the misses, our team came through on the offensive glass.

"So that was a good thing."

So was seeing his mistakes after practice.

Contact David Uchiyama at duchiyama@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6484. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.

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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