Whitney Hood doesn’t want to get up before the sun next Saturday.
To avoid playing in one of the dreaded 9 a.m. Southern Conference women’s basketball tournament games, which would lead to a very early wake-up call, Hood and her University of Tennessee at Chattanooga teammates need to wrap up their regular season today with a win at Western Carolina.
A win or an Elon loss would guarantee UTC (15-13, 12-7) a third-place finish in the league. The No. 3 seed will play its first tournament game 30 minutes after the 9 a.m. matchup between the Nos. 4 and 5 seeds — around the more reasonable time of 11:15.
“If we can get out of that, hopefully we will, because I don’t really want to play [at 9],” said Hood, who has been the SoCon’s leading scorer (19.3 ppg) all season. “I’ve never played a game that early.”
WCU’s Catamounts (8-20, 6-13) are 10th in the standings but have won two of their last three games.
Should the Lady Mocs lose and Elon (17-11, 11-8) win today, the Phoenix will claim the third seed. UTC and Elon split their season series, but Elon has the tiebreaker.
Lady Mocs coach Wes Moore had won 11 straight SoCon regular-season titles before this season, so he’s not used to being in the position. However, he said finishing the season strong and carrying some momentum into the tournament at McKenzie Arena is a bigger concern than where UTC is seeded.
“It’s tournament time,” Moore said. “It doesn’t matter what time they tell you you’re playing, you’ve got to show up and be ready to go.”
UTC has won seven of its last nine games, including road wins at UNC Greensboro and Elon in its past two games. A win today would give the Lady Mocs their third three-game win streak of the season, and three straight road wins arguably would be their best achievement.
As hosts of the SoCon men’s and women’s tournaments, the Greater Chattanooga Sports and Events Committee is allowed to tweak the men’s schedule so the Mocs will play at the time most favorable for attracting a big crowd. But Sports Committee president Scott Smith said that option doesn’t apply to the women’s draw.
The next three SoCon tournaments will be played in Asheville, N.C., which will use two arenas and eliminate the need for 9 a.m. games.
The Lady Mocs have won eight of the last 11 SoCon tournaments.
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 ...