In this file photo, UTC's Ricky Taylor (22) passes to a teammate while playing against Reinhardt college during the second half of play at McKenzie Arena.Staff File Photo by Dan Henry
Keegan Bell runs the show. Omar Wattad is the leading scorer. DeAntre Jefferson provides the muscle, and strong 6-foot-7 forward Chris Early creates mismatches all over the floor.
Ricky Taylor is equally important to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's basketball team.
The junior shooting guard has been on a tear of late. He's averaged 16.9 points in the Mocs' last seven games.
He'll attempt to continue the trend of success in their Southern Conference game tonight at 7 at Davidson (11-12, 5-7).
Taylor has added a dimension to his game for the Mocs (14-10, 10-2). He began his UTC career as a spot-up shooter, in the mold of former gunners Keddric Mays and Stephen McDowell but without their success. Last year he added a mid-range jumper.
This year, he's taking an extra dribble or two and driving in the half-court offense and sneaking out for layups in transition situations.
"He's doing a great job of attacking the rim," point guard Bell said. "I don't think people realize how tough are the layups he's hitting or getting to the line. He's been awesome. And now his 3s are opening up."
The result of Taylor's new aggressiveness is more passive defense from opponents who don't want him sprinting to the rim. So he has more room to shoot 3-pointers.
"If you can put it on the floor, then you can get uncontested 3s," UTC coach John Shulman said. "He's become multidimensional, which allows him to be a complete player. Him doing other things than just shooting 3s has really helped him and opened things up for the rest of us."
Taylor has shot 50 percent from the floor (38-of-76) and 46.4 percent from the 3-point line (13-of-28) in the Mocs' last seven games. He's also hit 80.6 percent of his free throws (29-of-36) in that stretch.
He scorched UNC Greensboro for 41 points in a 111-110 double-overtime win nine nights ago. It's the third highest single-game performance of any UTC player in the school's Division I history.
"It all started in the summertime when I made a commitment to be a better scorer by getting all the way to the hole," Taylor said. "I figured it would be good if one of our guards get all the way in."
Even though the Mocs are playing Davidson for the first time this year — and only in the regular season -- It's as if they're facing the same team for a third time. Davidson operates the same system and principles as Elon, whose coach, Matt Matheny, spent more than a decade as an assistant to Davidson coach Bob McKillop.
UTC beat Elon on the road by six in December and by nine last Saturday in McKenzie Arena.
"They're not identical twins, but they're close -- fraternal twins, paternal twins, whatever the term is, they're that — and that helps us with one day of preparation," Shulman said. "They are finding themselves at this moment. Everybody was counting them out, and I said, 'Don't do that yet.'
"They're back, and they're playing their best basketball right now."
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 ...