Their styles are nothing alike, but University of Tennessee at Chattanooga point guards Chelsey Shumpert and Alicia "Red" Payne have found a way to mesh their styles together this season.
Collectively, they've averaged 9.3 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists a game and made 28 steals while helping lead the Mocs to a 23-3 record and a 15-0 mark in the Southern Conference.
UTC has its final road test of the regular season this evening, facing Samford in Birmingham at 7. It will be the first chance for both young point guards to get back in a game after they struggled in a 64-48 win over Wofford last Monday. Late in the game, coach Jim Foster sat both, electing to use point forward Taylor Hall as the primary ball-handler.
"I think that both Chelsey and Red benefit from having Taylor being a point forward, because it's allowed them to be able to learn on the run without undue responsibility," Foster said. "After Monday, the only conversation I had with them was about the expectation: 'Your next step is what makes you better,' and they have a learning opportunity that's a little different than they have had, so it's up to them to step up, figure out what they need to do and be ready to go."
Their differences on the court have helped them blend well most of the time. Aside from the position they share, there are no similarities. Shumpert, the starter at point since the Colorado State game on Dec. 1, is a gifted offensive player who can stretch a defense, evidenced by seven double-digit scoring performances. She shoots 41 percent from 3-point range -- tops on the team.
Payne, who is fourth on the team in minutes played per game despite coming off the bench for the past 19, is a ballhawk on defense who also has a high basketball IQ. Her length creates havoc for opposing point guards, because they are harassed from the second they receive the ball. She, like Shumpert, averages around two assists per game.
"We're different, and that works out good," Payne said. "It just depends on what we need at the moment, but it's great to have two separate styles at the same position."
Payne, a sophomore, playfully refers to the freshman Shumpert as "young-un," so there's anything but any jealousy or hostility between the two at the position.
"We just give each other motivation," Shumpert said. "We have different games, but we learn off each other so much that you can't really tell. It doesn't matter who comes off the bench: We're going to do a good job either way."
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.