Whitney Hood doesn’t want the last game of her University of Tennessee at Chattanooga basketball career to be an 0-for-3, two-point performance.
That was the two-time All-Southern Conference forward’s tally in the Lady Mocs’ 77-52 loss to Appalachian State in the semifinals of the SoCon tournament earlier this month. When she walked off the court in Asheville, N.C., the senior thought her career was finished.
“Our goal was to get into the NCAA tournament and I didn’t think about the [Women’s NIT],” Hood said.
The Lady Mocs (22-9) will find out late tonight if they are in the 64-team WNIT field. For mid-major conferences like the SoCon, the top team that doesn’t make the NCAA tournament field of 64 receives an automatic bid and that’s often the only team to make it.
The NCAA gives UTC an RPI ranking of 59, the highest in the SoCon, including co-champions Davidson and Appalachian State. Davidson was the top seed in the SoCon tournament and has the league’s automatic WNIT bid, and there’s a good chance both UTC and App State will get at-large invitations.
“At least we have a chance for another opportunity to play and play better than we did in the tournament,” said Hood, who is 24 points away from 1,000 in her two seasons at UTC. “If we’re going to be in it, let’s make progress and try to win and get to the next game.”
Junior guard Kayla Christopher also wants some redemption. A member of the SoCon coaches’ all-conference team, Christopher struggled in Asheville. She went 0-for-10 from the field in the tournament, including 0-for-7 from 3-point range.
Lady Mocs coach Wes Moore said some of that was on him.
“Did I do enough to get her shots?” Moore asked after the ASU loss. “Did I do enough to help her? I’ve got to look at that, too.”
UTC strives on making the NCAA tournament, but playing at least one more game this season would offer a chance for the seniors to finish on a better note and for the returning players to create something positive for next season.
“I’m really happy for our seniors because that wasn’t the way I wanted them to go out,” Christopher said, referring to the SoCon tournament. “And this would give us another chance to send them out on a good note and even for us, just to show ourselves what we have a little bit.”
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 ...