Casey Jones' favorite defense to play for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is a full-court trapping defense.
"If I get a tip on the ball, then we're most likely going to score, so I like Fifty-Four," Jones said. "With so many guys coming off the bench, we could play it a lot during a game. I love it."
He may play more of it in the future.
The Mocs crawled back from a 23-point deficit with 12 minutes to play -- the precipice of a second straight blowout -- by playing that defense for more than the final quarter of Saturday's game against Eastern Kentucky that ended in an 63-52 loss.
"We pressured the ball last night like we haven't done in four years," UTC coach John Shulman said. "We took a swing back.
"I don't think we'll live in that defense, but Casey was incredible on that ball. We didn't punch back against Davidson. We didn't make them uncomfortable at all. We made Eastern uncomfortable in the last 12 minutes."
A metamorphous may continue for UTC (2-6) which plays at LSU (5-0) on Tuesday night because Shulman has analyzed and learned and adjusted to some traits of his team over its first eight games.
"We wanted to play a little slower at the start because we didn't think we'd be very good on offense," Shulman said. "Maybe our team isn't as good in the half-court game. How do you find that out? By playing games."
UTC has won only two of their eight games including one against Tennessee Temple and another at Kennesaw State which is rated fourth-from-last out of 344 Division I schools. Future SoCon foes Furman and the Citadel hold the last two spots, according to CollegeRPI.com. UTC is ranked No. 292.
"As weird as it sounds, I thought we took a step forward defensively against Eastern Kentucky," said Shulman, whose team won the second half 34-30 and forced 12 turnovers after halftime. "It may not look like that to the normal person with the common eye."
But second half defensive successes can only do so much when a team trails throughout the first half.
UTC started in an 11-0 hole against EKU by turning the ball over to the Colonels on their first seven possessions of the game.
Slow starts are now normal for UTC. The Mocs (2-6) have trailed at halftime in five of their six losses. Their only first-half win came at Kansas, 36-28, which KU coach Bill Self called the worst half of basketball his team had played.
UTC trailed by as many as 15 in the first half on Saturday and by 18 against Davidson last Saturday. UTC has not owned a lead, even in the opening minutes, at any point of their last two games after falling behind the opponent.
"Maybe we can fly it down a little more," Shulman said. "You learn that through playing games. So I think we're learning more about our team."
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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