John Shulman has taught the inside-then-out offensive approach during his entire nine years as men's head basketball coach at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
The outside part of that formula has stunk so far this season. The Mocs shoot 3-pointers worse than any team in the Southern Conference at a clip of 26.2 percent. That ranks them No. 334 out of 347 teams competing on the Division I level.
They shot 8-of-45 from the 3-point line in two games of the Dr Pepper Classic last weekend, yet they won the tournament.
"I saw some toughness to make plays, some grit and determination," Shulman said. "We had it against a bunch of teams this year, but we hadn't put it to use. We played hard, we were tough and did a nice job on the glass. We moved quicker.
"Last year's team, if we shot like that, we wouldn't have had a prayer. We've accepted who we are."
They know who they are.
"Stealing from a Dove commercial," Shulman said, "we are comfortable in our own skin."
The Mocs know their identity 13 games into the season, heading into one last paycheck game before starting conference competition in earnest Saturday at Samford. They play tonight at Georgia Tech (9-2).
"We are gritty, tough and ugly," Shulman. "We're not pretty enough to win pretty now."
These Mocs are a bruising team. They're not a Scenic City squad like last season's team that needed to make perimeter shots to be successful.
"We simply got way overmatched in the aggression and competitive side of the game, and on the backboards," Utah Valley coach John Hunsaker said after his team lost the Dr Pepper championship game to UTC.
"They were able to do anything they wanted, any time they wanted and as often as they wanted," he said. "We were very outmatched in the interior fighting game. UTC had a lot of fight."
The Mocs (5-8) will take that fight to Atlanta tonight for a game that will earn UTC about $90,000.
"It's only a matter of time, because nobody is shooting to their potential," sophomore guard Ronrico White said. "Once that starts happening, it's going to be something to see.
"Last year, if we weren't hitting from 3 it was going to be a tough night, but this year we don't let it dictate our defense."
UTC leads the SoCon in offensive rebounding and is second in defensive rebounding and third in holding opponents to 42.7 percent shooting.
"We've been playing hard as a team and our defense is strong," said junior forward Zaccheus Mason, who scored 26 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in the Pepper final. "I feel that we're making little plays, and winning on the glass helps us.
"Last year, if we weren't making shots we would have dropped. But with this team, if we're not making shots, it's not the end of the world."
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 ...