A month after its season ended in disappointing fashion, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women’s basketball team is working to return to championship form.
The Lady Mocs — who went 17-14 this past season and lost in the semifinals of the Southern Conference tournament — are lifting weights three days a week and practicing on Thursdays.
“We’re working on getting stronger,” All-SoCon forward Whitney Hood said. “That was one of the things [coach Wes Moore] emphasized — not necessarily getting buff, but getting stronger.
“It’s all about toughness and being able to finish that shot when you get hit, and it’s going to help our rebounding, too.”
After 11 straight SoCon regular-season titles, UTC finished third in the standings this season, behind Samford and champion Appalachian State.
Before this season, UTC had made eight trips to the NCAA tournament and three to the Women’s NIT in the past 11 seasons. That run ended in the semis of the SoCon tournament, when eventual champion Samford edged the Lady Mocs in overtime.
“For 11 straight years we played until the middle of March or late March, so it has been a little sad,” Moore said. “We hit a bump in the road and that happens every now and again, I guess. And now we want to get back.
“I showed the team a highlight film of when we beat Rutgers in the  NCAA tournament and said, ‘Hey, we’re not just talking about competing in the conference. We want to go to the [NCAA] tournament and win some games. That’s what we’re about.’”
In the loss to Samford, UTC was up 59-52 with 3:08 to play but couldn’t put the game away. It was one of several tight games that got away from the Lady Mocs, so competitiveness and toughness are being addressed.
“I think that’s definitely something that we were lacking. That’s something that hurt us in the close games,” Moore said. “Hopefully everybody realized what small margin for error is involved. I have been impressed with how everybody’s gone at [the workouts], and that’s encouraging.”
The Lady Mocs lose only two players from this season’s roster, Bailey Dewart and Kiara Smith, both of whom are giving up the game with eligibility left because of chronic knee problems.
Moore is still working on next season’s schedule, which will include the Preseason NIT tournament and the Cancun Challenge over Thanksgiving weekend.
John Frierson is in his seventh year at the Times Free Press and seventh year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...
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