Chattanooga head coach John Shulman talks from the sideline.Photo by Contributed Photo
John Shulman barked out a variety of defensive calls in the Kennesaw State Convocation Center on Saturday.
Not once did he yell, "Fire."
Instead, he called for plays such as "Two," "Three," "Fifty-three," or rose a fist above his head and made other hand signals. Each of the calls represent a different defense. Sometimes, Shulman called two different things on the same Kennesaw State possession.
The Mocs have and will continue to defend with a variety of defenses instead of man-to-man with only variable being whether they "Fire" (double-team the post) or not.
It's new and different -- just like the composition of the roster which has younger, quicker and more athletic players which allows them to play in a different style than previous Shulman squads.
"I like saying, 'This is my good stuff and it's better than your good stuff,' but right now, that may not be," Shulman said, after the Mocs beat KSU 65-51 and earned their first Division I victory of the year.
"If we have to do some trickery, we'll do that," he said. "We can zone sometimes and play 1-3-1. What's nice is that some of them are brother-and-sister where in one we trap and one we don't and [opponents] don't know."
The purpose, much like bringing linebackers up to the line of scrimmage or standing up defensive ends in football, is to create confusion. Opponents now must figure out what set UTC is running and then adjust which takes time off the shot clock and may force a turnover or poor shot. One or two possessions of offensive confusion by a Southern Conference team may result in a SoCon win for UTC.
The early results prove something unseen under Shulman. Heading into Sunday's games, the Mocs (2-4) lead the SoCon in 3-point field goal percentage defense.
Opponents have hit just 29.5 percent of their 3s against UTC. The Mocs are fifth in field-goal percent defense and third in turnovers forced per game.
"You can't live in a 1-3-1 or two-chase, and you can't live in just man," Shulman said. "But when you put it together, you have a smorgasbord.
"And in practice, without spending 50 minutes a day working on 'Fire' you can do some different things."
Junior Zaccheus Mason, in his second season with the team, is impressed with how well he and his teammates have taken to switching defenses on the fly. He's impressed how after a basket they'll start in a three-quarter-court trap then pick up man-to-man -- or go to a zone.
The four freshmen and three sophomores currently in the rotation were focused on learning basic man-to-man-fundamentals such as ball-pressure just three weeks ago. Now, they're running a 1-3-1 in the half-court and double-teaming in a 2-3 zone.
"It's shocking because they picked up on it quick," Mason said. "The captains on the floor have to know everybody is on the same page doing the same thing."
Freshman Gee McGhee noticed a difference from the first two games -- Tennessee Temple and at No. 7 Kansas -- to the last few. Louisiana Tech, especially in the second half, and KSU had their coaches barking out offensive plays with 15-20 seconds left on the shot clock after diagnosing UTC's defense.
"You have to see the look on their face," said McGhee, who helped UTC win its first road game since February of last year. "Our defenses look the same when you cross half-court, but they're different."
Also different is playing different defenses.
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 ...