published Saturday, February 23rd, 2013

Lady Mocs' seniors near second SoCon title

  • photo
    Kayla Christopher of UTC looks for an opening against the Samford University at McKenzie Arena.
    Photo by Connor Choate /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

  • photo
    Kylie Lambert (22) steps high during a game with Jacksonville State at McKenzie Arena.
    Photo by Tim Barber /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Two games plus two wins equal two rings.

That's the math that's going through the minds of the the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball team's seniors, Kayla Christopher and Kylie Lambert.

"That's definitely what I've been thinking about," Christopher said. "We want to go out strong."

As freshmen during the 2009-10 season, Christopher and Lambert were key players in the Lady Mocs' run to the program's 11th straight Southern Conference championship. Now, after a two-year drought, UTC (23-3, 16-1) can wrap up another league title with a win at McKenzie Arena today against Western Carolina and a win Monday against second-place Davidson, which is one game back.

"I just want to get another ring before I leave," said Christopher, a four-year starter who is second all-time at UTC (and third in the SoCon) with 218 career 3-pointers. "When I came in, everybody got four [regular-season] rings. We only have one, so we want to make the most of our chance and get one more."

The Lady Mocs are riding a 13-game win streak. They haven't lost at the Roundhouse since March 6, 2011, when Samford beat them in overtime in the semifinals of the SoCon tournament. Since then it has been 24 straight wins, one shy of the program record of 25 at McKenzie.

The Roundhouse has been a welcome home for the past four seasons, Lambert said. UTC has averaged 2,014 at its eight SoCon games this season -- the overall average is 2,551 thanks to the crowd of 8,468 that saw UTC beat Tennessee -- while nobody else in the SoCon is averaging more than 532 (Georgia Southern).

"That's one of the things I'll miss the most, just having so many people there behind you," Lambert said.

Her senior season hasn't gone exactly as planned. Painful shin splints have limited her minutes for more than a month. If UTC can close out the league title with a pair of wins, making the season finale at Appalachian State on March 2 a lot less important, Lambert could get a lot of rest before the SoCon tournament, which begins for UTC on March 9.

"It would make a huge difference," Lambert said. "This injury, you just have to rest. There's really nothing else you can do about it."

Coach Wes Moore said his small senior class has been a good one. Lambert and Christopher aren't vocal leaders, but they work hard and lead by example, he said. And they've helped bring the Lady Mocs back to the top of the SoCon.

"They've hung in there," Moore said, "and they've got a chance to do some great things this last month."

about John Frierson...

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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