The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball team made the plays that mattered in the final five minutes at McKenzie Arena on Friday night.
In the first round of the Preseason WNIT, the Lady Mocs opened their season with a 65-59 win over UAB. UTC trailed 52-46 with 6:36 to play but closed the game on a 19-7 run.
"We started getting stops on defense and knocking down shots," said UTC guard Kayla Christopher, who scored all five of her points in a 50-second stretch with less than four minutes to play.
UTC lost a lot of tight games while going 17-14 last season, games that looked a lot like Friday's.
"I'd say that a lot of times last year, down four points at the end of the game, we might have lost the game," Christopher said. "This year, I think it shows a lot that we stood in and came out on top."
Taylor Hall had 13 points and 10 rebounds to lead UTC. Kylie Lambert also scored 13 and Whitney Hood finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Senior point guard Tenisha Townsend had 10 points and five assists.
UAB (0-1), which won 20 games last season and returned four of five starters, got 16 points each from Karisma Chapman and Amber Jones.
The Lady Mocs will travel to Waco, Texas, today before facing top-ranked Baylor (1-0) on Sunday. The Bears hammered Howard 82-28 on Friday and are led by 6-foot-8 two-time All-American Brittney Griner.
Hall, a sophomore in her first career start, carried the offense at times earlier in the game. But it was the veterans who produced down the stretch.
A layup by Hood, a senior, with 2:27 left put UTC up for good, 58-57. Lambert, a junior, hit a jump shot to make it 60-57. In the final minute, Townsend made four straight free throws to seal the win.
"[UAB] made it hard for you to run your stuff, and our kids hung around," Lady Mocs coach Wes Moore said. "It wasn't always pretty, but opening night rarely is. I'm proud of our kids for being able to at clutch time get it done."
UTC made six of its first seven shots from the field but was hurt by turnovers in the first half and the game was tied at 30 at the break. By the end, UTC had 16 turnovers to UAB's six, but the Lady Mocs shot 52.3 percent for the game, while the Blazers hit just 37.1 percent of their shots.
Both Hall and Christopher played against Griner during their respective AAU careers. A 6-1 forward, Hall might not get to avoid Griner in the paint, but Christopher said she knows enough not to try to drive the ball inside against Griner and her 88-inch wingspan.
"I don't think so," Christopher said with a laugh. "I'll have to be careful."
Griner had 22 points, 13 rebounds and eight blocked shots in 26 minutes of action against Howard.
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 ...