published Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

UTC seniors in bad cold spell

Omar Wattad launched an open 3-pointer from the right wing against The Citadel on Saturday.

The leather Nike ball rattled inside the rim and then bounced out.

He turned and cussed on his way back down the floor to play defense for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

It wasn't the Mocs' first miss from long range in a 48-46 defeat. Nor was it their last as they fell to 10-19 for the season and 4-12 in the Southern Conference.

It was just one of 18 3-pointers UTC missed that night, continuing a ice-cold trend from a trio of senior leaders who have not been sinking shots up to expectations -- their own, their coaches' and Mocs fans'.

"We need a shot to go in the bucket," coach John Shulman said. "We can defend and defend, but we need a shot to go in. We went 3-for-21 and we got good looks."

Wattad, Keegan Bell and Ricky Taylor were 6-of-51 from the arc in UTC's last three games, which equates to 11.7 percent. The entire team was 13-of-69, which raises the rate to 18.8 percent.

No one has to be a math professor to know that's a bad number. The three non-Division I teams that UTC played early in the season shot a combined 20.7 percent from the arc against the Mocs.

Wattad entered the season shooting 34.9 percent on 3-pointers for his college career. Taylor started at 33.6 percent and Bell started at 31.6 percent. Those include pre-transfer statistics for Wattad and Bell.

"For whatever reason, our shots haven't been going in," said Bell, who missed two 3s in the final 10 seconds against The Citadel.

Against SoCon competition only, UTC ranks ninth in the league in having made 41.5 percent of all field-goal tries. It ranks 11th and shoots just 31.1 percent from behind the 3-point line. Only the College of Charleston is worse at 30.3 percent.

"When you can't make a shot, every play becomes a huge play," Shulman said. "Every little play can't be a huge play, because teams are going to make mistakes."

Shulman figures pressure is getting to his shooters. After all, these three seniors were a big reason the Mocs were picked to win the SoCon North Division -- with Wattad as a preseason all-conference selection.

"They're trying too hard," said Shulman, whose team will play Thursday at Furman. "That's a common denominator which I appreciate. I'd rather a kid try too hard than not try at all."

He pointed to one play in particular.

"Omar missed a great look early and you would have thought the world was coming to an end," Shulman said. "It looked like it was for a national championship. It was with 11 minutes to go in the first half at home against The Citadel."

The rest of the Mocs are 7-of-18 from the arc the last three games, with reserves Dontay Hampton and Ronrico White going a combined 7-of-16.

"It's not about getting shots, it's about getting a rhythm," Hampton said. "Everyone struggles. Even the best players in the world have bad games."

Contact David Uchiyama at duchiyama@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6484. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP

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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