The drought — if you can call it that — is over. Wes Moore called it a "hiatus."
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball team is back atop the Southern Conference, clinching the program's 12th regular-season title Monday night with a 68-59 win over Davidson at McKenzie Arena.
Moore, who has 12 titles in 15 seasons as the Lady Mocs' coach, said he was very nervous all day leading up to the game. The stress showed on his face both a few minutes before the game and at halftime.
"I just wanted to make sure these kids got rewarded for all their hard work," he said after the team's 15th consecutive win.
The Lady Mocs (25-3, 18-1) had their streak of 11 straight titles snapped during the 2010-11 season and came up short again last year. But this season, the Lady Mocs were in first place from start to finish.
For UTC seniors Kayla Christopher and Kylie Lambert, who won SoCon season and tournament titles as freshmen, returning the program back to its usual place was the No. 1 goal this season.
"You didn't want to be the ones that never got it back on track," said Christopher, who scored 11 points Monday. "We wanted to do something special, something that we hadn't done in a couple of years, and we accomplished that."
UTC center Ashlen Dewart had one of her best games in an outstanding season, leading all scorers with 24 points and going 11-for-13 from the field. She also had nine rebounds, four steals and two assists.
Davidson (18-10, 15-3) went with a big lineup, starting not only 6-foot-5 Sophia Aleksandravicius but also 6-3 Sarah Davis, whose only starts this season have come against UTC. The size didn't hurt UTC's paint production: The Lady Mocs finished with a 44-28 scoring advantage inside.
"You either step up to the challenge or you back down," Dewart said.
Aleksandravicius had her way with UTC in the first 10 minutes of the game, scoring 10 points as the Wildcats led 16-13. She was held to a point the rest of the first half and finished with 18. Taylor Hall and Dewart helped shut her down, primarily by taking away the lob entry pass, with the help of some increased pressure on Davidson's guards.
The Lady Mocs led 31-28 at halftime and took control of the game in the first 10 minutes of the second half, and they never let the Wildcats make a run the rest of the way. UTC led by at least eight points throughout the final 7:19.
"Being a senior, it's really nice to celebrate and go out the way we came in," Lambert said.
A crowd of 2,336 was on hand to see UTC win another championship. The Lady Mocs set a program record for average attendance, averaging 2,550 for their 13 home games. They also set a school record with their 26th consecutive win at the Roundhouse, going two straight seasons without a home loss.
UTC will be the No. 1 seed in the SoCon tournament and will play its first game at noon on March 9, at UNC-Asheville's Kimmel Arena. The Lady Mocs finish the regular season at Appalachian State on Saturday.
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 ...