Uch on the Road: UTC Mocs blog from Cullowhee

Uch on the Road: UTC Mocs blog from Cullowhee

February 3rd, 2012 by David Uchiyama in Sports - College

CULLOWHEE, N.C. -- Actually, I've left Cullowhee for a motel in Asheville. I have plans to interview the executive director of the Asheville Sports Committee at the U.S. Cellular Center on Friday for an upcoming story.

Moving on ... fresh thoughts and observations from UTC's basketball game at Western Carolina on Thursday:

The Opening Tip

I'm keeping this first observation anonymous to protect the parties involved who had no idea I was watching and listening.

Following the game, a veteran Western Carolina observer asked a longtime observer of the UTC program (not me) if Mocs coach John Shulman would survive the season and coach a ninth year.

That person's answer doesn't matter. It will be up to UTC athletic director Rick Hart to weigh this season, Shulman's seven-plus years and the future potential before making a decision.

My point is: The question is circling around the Southern Conference.

Mocs Chalk Talk

The roster limitations -- no Jahmal Burroughs or Zaccheus Mason -- forced Shulman to make several decisions beyond the usual.

He varied the defenses once the Catamounts torched the nets against the Mocs' base man-to-man defense.

UTC switched ball-screens for a while. The Mocs played some 2-3 zone. They pressed with a 1-2-2 in the half-court for a bit and three-quarters-court in the second half.

Shulman also unveiled a play that I hadn't heard before. "Phoenix!" he shouted from the bench.

It starts as a high ball-screen but off to the side a bit instead of at the top of the key like "Fist" or "Open."

Stats, STAT!

Western Carolina's school-record for 3-pointers made in a game is 17.

The Cats made 12 in the first half Thursday night and threatened to shatter that record. But they made only three in the second half as they milked the shot clock a bit more, faced UTC's presses and then were fouled in the final minutes, leaving them short of the mark.

But they attempted 41 from long range, which crushed the program's previous mark of 34 set against Shulman's Mocs in 2007.

Coach is consistent: He's daring teams to beat UTC from outside, and the Cats did just that.

Stats, STAT! (Extra Edition)

Senior Ricky Taylor and junior Drazen Zlovaric combined to shoot 0-for-9 from the floor, score four points and grab six rebounds.

Shulman needed more from both players.

Taylor looked lost, sleepy, slow, a step behind during his nine minutes in the first half. He didn't look like himself.

Then, at one point early in the second half Shulman shouted, "Drazen, do you want to play?"

Zlovaric played the first 84 seconds of the second half and never got on the floor again.

The Baseline

UTC is staring down the barrel of trying to play "Four Days in March."

That has a much different ring than Shulman's mantra that "Three Days in March" are what matters most in a season. In case you weren't aware, no team has won four straight SoCon tournament games to reach the Big Dance.

The Mocs are 3-8 in the SoCon and four games behind Elon in the loss column in the fight for a first-round bye, with just seven games left to play.

UTC fans who booked rooms in Asheville before the season began may need to call the hotel and adjust their reservation for one day earlier than they planned in October.

The Open Floor

I don't have an answer to this question because I haven't thought about it long enough.

How much value is there in battling until the end, and losing close, like the Mocs have done for their last six contests?

Does it matter in the long run?

Or is a loss an "L" no matter whether it's by 25 at Kentucky or by a 3 at the buzzer by Georgia Southern?