Long-shot odds

Mocs third in 3 tries, 256th in percentage

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga basketball coach John Shulman always is concerned with the Mocs' defense, which hasn't been very good in their last three games, all losses.

But after seven games, he's also growing concerned about UTC's offensive woes heading into its Southern Conference opener Thursday against Appalachian State.

"We've taken questionable shots," Shulman said Monday before the daily team meeting and practice. "It started at Tennessee, but it's got better. It's more about shot selection that I'm worried about than the fact we're not hitting them."

National statistics support his head-rubbing and hair-pulling.

Only two other schools in the country had attempted more 3-pointers than UTC heading into Monday night's games. The Mocs (2-5) have tossed up 194 3-point attempts in seven games.

That's an average of 27.7 per game. Only VMI through seven games and Navy through six had attempted more.

"We've got to take better shots," said point guard Keegan Bell, who is second on UTC's firing squad but is 27th nationally with 5.9 assists per game. "We are a good shooting team, but it's hard to shoot well when we're kind of jacking them up. Right now we're taking them to take them.

"I like to play getting up and down, but we need to get in the lane more and look inside-out instead of just outside."

At .309, the Mocs are ranked No. 256 in the country in 3-point percentage. That doesn't statistically qualify as a good-shooting team, but Shulman wants a larger sample size than seven games, including contests at major powers Tennessee and Louisville.

"I do think we're a good shooting team, but let me have until Christmas to make that final decision," Shulman said. "I'm not going to go on seven games, because I see them every day in practice."

Junior guard Omar Wattad is 15-of-53 on 3s so far this season for the Mocs, and Bell is 14-of-45.

"It's more of the standing around, passing around, nobody has gone in the lane and then there's a hand in our face," Bell said. "Those are the shots we need to stop."

Power forward Chris Early, who was recruited to Oklahoma as a small forward, has the best 3-point rate on the Mocs' team. He's hit 9 of 24 attempts, or 37.5 percent.

"We're still trying to find our rhythm," Early said. "We're having a hard time shooting. We need to get it inside more, then outside shots will fall more."

Centers DeAntre Jefferson and Jeremy Saffore have combined to average just 13.4 points per game. Early, who has made as many 3-pointers as 2s, and reserve power forward Jahmal Burroughs combine to average 10.5 points per game.

"I want to get it inside, but guys are going to have to produce in there," Shulman said. "Produce means either scoring or getting fouled so you get something good in there."

The Mocs have made some crucial 3-pointers. Wattad tied the game against Austin Peay with one from the right wing and 29 seconds to play. Ricky Taylor gave UTC a three-point lead with two minutes to go at Kennesaw State. And another 3 from Wattad gave the Mocs the lead with four minutes to play at Marshall.

"We've been in games shooting 3s and missing 3s, but I don't think it's about that," Wattad said. "If we get more stops, the other team is more demoralized. Then they don't have the energy and we can score more easily."

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