published Sunday, November 27th, 2011

Mocs try to build on victory

Coach John Shulman said his University of Tennessee at Chattanooga basketball team is an eight-cylinder vehicle sputtering on just one cylinder.

That vehicle barely got past Savannah State 65-63 on Friday in McKenzie Arena.

The rubber hits the road again today when the Mocs host Gardner-Webb at 3 p.m. in the final game of the Hoosier Classic.

"We're not close to where we're going to be," Shulman said Saturday. "If you can win when you're not supposed to like last night, that's a good thing. We're definitely not peaking."

Senior forward Chris Early contributed to UTC's early-season struggles before playing his best game of the young season Friday.

A tweak to UTC's motion offense after a six-point loss to Kennesaw State allows Early to play more on the perimeter and get momentum going toward the basket instead of having him play with his back to the goal like a traditional post player.

He scored 15 points, hit four 3-pointers and tied career highs with four assists and three steals against the Tigers on Friday.

"It made me more comfortable and it's what I'm used to doing," Early said. "I like to see my defender so I can shoot the ball or drive it. I can pick and roll or I can pick and pop, and that opens things up for me a lot more than playing with my back to the basket."

Shulman said Early likely will start today against the Bulldogs, and Ricky Taylor also likely will be back in the lineup.

"It's no secret we need Chris Early to be successful," Shulman said Friday. "We need Ricky Taylor to be successful."

Taylor went 0-for-4 from the floor and is 9-of-29 against Division I teams this year.

"I don't known if it's senioritis -- I don't know what it is -- but he's not bringing it right now," Shulman said. "The guy scored 41 points in a game in our league last year, but he was a nonfactor.

"We need him, we need all the seniors, and that's why we were picked to win the league. The seniors have to bring it."

Shulman gathered the five seniors for a powwow before the daily team meeting Saturday but didn't elaborate on the topic of discussion.

"We need to get Ricky going, we need to get Omar [Wattad] going and we need to get solid defensively," Shulman said. "We have conference play starting next week."

Gardner-Webb lost 72-66 to Savannah State on Sunday with Shulman and his staff watching the whole game and players witnessing the second half. Jason Dawson led the Bulldogs (2-4) with 16 points.

"It was 1:30 in the morning and I'm watching them go up 17 at Butler with 17 minutes to go and I didn't sleep well," Shulman said. "They're good. Their best player, Jason Dawson, hurt us when he was with Wofford. He jab-stepped Steph [McDowell] and hit a 3 -- drove me crazy."

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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