UTC Mocs senior basketball players in stretch run

UTC Mocs senior basketball players in stretch run

January 24th, 2012 by David Uchiyama in Sports - College

Keegan Bell motions to his teammates in the first period of UTC's game against Longwood University in the Dr. Pepper Classic held at McKenzie Arena.

Keegan Bell motions to his teammates in the...

Photo by Alex Washburn /Times Free Press.

The four seniors playing men's basketball for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga have 10 regular-season games left in their college careers, plus at least one game in the Southern Conference tournament.

They're reminded regularly of their games remaining, plus what coach John Shulman calls a tournament run.

It's the final stretch for leaving a legacy.

"I talk to them about 10 and a tourney run and that's it -- that's all you're promised," Shulman said. "We've had losses, but we haven't had that 'Where were they tonight?'"

Point guard Keegan Bell and fellow senior Ricky Taylor each owns two championship rings. Bell got his first, a sizable one, while redshirting when UTC won the SoCon tournament in 2009. Taylor earned one from playing that season.

Both also own smaller rings, as do classmates Jahmal Burroughs and Omar Wattad, for winning a share of the North Division title last season.

"We're not going to panic. We're not going to freak out," Bell said about nearing the end. "I'm going to enjoy every moment and every game. If you start thinking about it, then you won't be successful."

UTC resides in fifth place in the North Division with a 3-5 SoCon record. Division-leading Elon is 4-3. So winning the division is not out of the question.

Improbable? Yes. Impossible? No.

Both KenPom.com and RealTimeRPI.com -- websites that factor in previous statistical analysis to predict future outcomes -- have the Mocs going 5-5 down the stretch, finishing the SoCon season 8-10 and ending without a win on the road.

Such a result would not add to the UTC seniors' jewelry collection.

"As a player you come to realize things are coming to an end and you want to go out with a bang," Burroughs said. "We still have a chance to accomplish things."

Shulman has faith that these Mocs are good enough, play hard enough and fight enough to get another ring.

"I can't tell you we got dismantled at Indiana, or Butler or even at Kentucky, because we were down 15 with 16 [minutes] to play," Shulman said. "There's a lot of good in this basketball team. I don't know why bad breaks are happening to us. We've had our share of bad breaks. You have to keep battling through it."

Contact David Uchiyama at duchiyama@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6484.