published Friday, March 21st, 2014

Chattanooga Mocs preparing for Syracuse's zone defense

TC forward Taylor Hall (31), shown drawing a foul on UNC Greensboro’s Jarae Savage on March 2, will
lead the Mocs against Syracuse in an NCAA tournament game Saturday afternoon in Lexington, Ky.
TC forward Taylor Hall (31), shown drawing a foul on UNC Greensboro’s Jarae Savage on March 2, will lead the Mocs against Syracuse in an NCAA tournament game Saturday afternoon in Lexington, Ky.
Photo by Erin O. Smith /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball Mocs know that if they're going to win their first-round NCAA tournament game against Syracuse, they need to be able to hit shots from 3-point range.

But that's not all they have to do.

After a brief practice Thursday morning, the Mocs departed for Lexington, Ky., where they will face the Orange (22-9) on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Memorial Coliseum. UTC (29-3) will hold a 90-minute practice today at Memorial, with a key part of the preparation dealing with Syracuse's zone defense.

UTC senior Taylor Hall said Wednesday that being successful against a zone will come down to how well the Mocs move the ball and set each other up for good shots, which is something they have done well all season. They averaged a Southern Conference-best 15.3 assists per game, with assists on 57.9 percent of their made field goals.

"We'll need to knock down some shots to expand the zone some, but we can't rely on the 3," said Hall, who averaged a team-high 4.4 assists as well as leading the team in scoring. "We can do some things in the paint to dissect it, but making shots will help that happen a lot easier. If they have to get out on our shooters, we'll have more space in the paint to drive."

Some of those open shots could go to senior guards Alex Black and Meghan Downes and freshman Chelsey Shumpert -- three of the best shooters on the team. Black scored a career-high 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting in the Mocs' 71-45 victory over Davidson in the Southern Conference championship game.

"We have to be focused and ready when we get open opportunities. We've been getting a lot of shots up in practice preparation," Black said. "It's going to be crucial that we hit some shots."

The Mocs have connected on 31.8 percent of their 3-point attempts, but 3-point efficiency isn't the secret to beating a zone, UTC coach Jim Foster said.

"The misnomer about zone offense is that you have to take 3s [to beat it]," Foster said. "But it's really about taking quality shots and nothing more than that. You have to understand what a quality shot is and how to get them in the framework of the offense. A lot of time people take quick shots, or the wrong people take shots early.

"It's a matter of patience and being smart with the ball."

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.

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