University of Tennessee at Chattanooga point guard Keegan Bell has a knack for finding the open man. Teammate Ricky Taylor has a knack for hitting shots.
Wednesday afternoon, both had a perfect opportunity to showcase the things they are good at.
Bell had eight assists and Taylor had a game-high 21 points as the Mocs scored 27 consecutive points midway through the first half on their way to a 95-41 victory over National Christian College Athletic Association member Hiwassee College.
UTC (4-8) will come back Monday from a brief Christmas break and will host Longwood in the Dr Pepper Classic on Dec. 29 at 7 p.m.
In addition to Chris Early, still serving an indefinite suspension, the Mocs were without second-leading scorer Omar Wattad, who suffered a concussion in Monday's practice.
At times Wednesday afternoon, the Mocs played with a decided edge. At other times it seemed that edge was gone.
Early in the first half, UTC coach John Shulman yelled at his team to "Wake up!" Shortly after that, the Mocs responded with the backbreaking run.
"I sensed that we would be flat before the game started," Shulman said. "I thought the guys did a nice job of finding our goal and getting a win."
The Tigers (4-11) stayed close in the opening minutes, trailing only 13-7 after a steal and layup by Ty Johnson. The UTC lead was 16-9 after a foul-line jump shot by Cody Carson, but the Mocs answered with 27 straight. Taylor had 16 points during the spurt, including 13 in a row. He hit a trio of 3-pointers and added a layup before punctuating the run with a dunk off a steal by Drazen Zlovaric.
Taylor hit his first seven shots and had 18 first-half points. His 21 points make him 10 shy of joining the 1,000-point club.
"He was just unconscious out there," Bell said. "Every time the ball was coming out of his hands, I knew it was going in. He was in that zone."
Shulman noted that while Taylor was scoring, he felt the senior struggled some with his defense and ball-handling in the first half.
"It always looks good when the shot goes in," Shulman said. "The thing was, we actually had better looks at the basket against Kentucky [last Saturday], but we weren't making shots."
Said Taylor of Bell: "I play with the all-time leading assist man. He's by far the best point guard I've ever played with."
Taylor laughed when told about Shulman's criticism.
"I'm always going to mess up -- I'm not perfect -- but I appreciate Coach keeping me focused," he said.
UTC led 45-15 at halftime, and Shulman was able to shuffle players in and out in the second half. The Tigers' lone team highlight came in the half's opening minutes, as the team went on an 11-2 run during a four-minute stretch.
Eleven of the 12 active players scored for UTC, Bell being the only exception.
Jared Bryant started Wednesday in place of Zlovaric, who was late to the team's pregame meal. Bryant finished with 14 points and led the team with seven rebounds. Dontay Hampton had four 3s and 14 points, and Lance Stokes and Ronrico White each scored nine.
"We'll come back and start trying to get better. We've got a lot of young guys that need to go home and be with their families," Shulman said.
"We are about three or four plays away from being a different ball team."
Brandon Carpenter and Johnson led Hiwassee with seven points each.