The first Tennessee women's basketball game since 1974 without Pat Summitt on the bench most definitely did not go according to plan. It ended with about 150 University of Tennessee at Chattanooga students rushing the McKenzie Arena court in celebration.
Playing in front of a spirited crowd Friday night, the Lady Mocs played aggressively, played with poise down the stretch and pulled off an 80-71 upset of No. 20 Tennessee, spoiling the start of the Holly Warlick era.
Wes Moore said his wife, Linda, told him before the game "not to embarrass the family." He did not. Instead, his team earned a win that might be surpassed only by the Lady Mocs' upset of Rutgers in the 2004 NCAA tournament.
"That's what I told the team in the locker room: 'You've done something you'll never forget,'" Moore said, adding, "This is special and something that's really good for our program."
UTC forward Taylor Hall had perhaps the best game of her career, finishing with 24 points, nine rebounds, four steals and three blocks. She went 9-for-12 from the field and didn't have a turnover.
"That was definitely a game I enjoyed," Hall said.
The announced attendance was 8,468, and the third-largest home crowd in program history included Summitt, now UT's head coach emeritus, who sat near the UT bench.
The Lady Mocs (1-0) snapped a 19-game losing streak to UT (0-1) and erased some demons from 2008, the Lady Vols' last visit to the Roundhouse, when UTC blew a six-point lead with less than six minutes remaining.
Did this win make up for that one?
"Not really," Moore said, drawing a few laughs from the media.
The Lady Mocs did it Friday with a veteran lineup that includes six juniors and two seniors -- a group that handled the big moments in the second half. The game was tied at 28 at halftime, and UTC opened the second with a 15-7 run.
"We can't let a team get on a run like that," said UT guard Meighan Simmons, who led the Lady Vols with 23 points. "We have to stay together and make sure we're doing the little things."
Tennessee cut the lead to 43-39 with 15:04 remaining, but that was as close as it got. UTC hit 18 of 32 shots in the second half, including four of eight 3-pointers.
"We're young, we have a new coach and we're playing in a pretty hostile environment, but when it comes down to it, you've got to take care of business," Warlick said. "And we didn't.
Moore said Wednesday that he wanted the Lady Mocs to have about as many assists as turnovers. UTC finished with 17 assists and 13 turnovers. Moore praised the play of point guard Alex Black, who had 14 points and only four turnovers against an aggressive Tennessee press.
"I'll take that every day against a team like that," Moore said.
Tennessee, meanwhile, turned the ball over 26 times, and UTC outscored the Lady Vols 27-7 off turnovers.
"Those turnovers definitely ... we were just jittery at the beginning," UT senior Taber Spani said.
Warlick said the problems started with defense, or a lack of it.
"I think the whole night our defense was nonexistent," she said.
The Lady Mocs are back on the court Wednesday at Belmont, while Tennessee plays at No. 22 Georgia Tech on Sunday.
John Frierson is in his fifth year at the Times Free Press and fifth 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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