For the first 20 minutes of their Sunday afternoon battle against Belmont, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women’s basketball team was not sticking to the script laid out by head coach Jim Foster. Pressing on shot attempts, missing free throws and some careless ball handling had given the Lady Bruins a nine-point advantage at halftime.
Then came the second half, when things started to resemble what the Lady Mocs want to do. For the most part.
Led by 21 points and six rebounds from birthday girl Faith Dupree and another solid all-around game from Taylor Hall, the Lady Mocs outscored Belmont 49-29 in the second half and ended the game on a 18-7 run to claim a 76-65 victory in front of 1,707 fans at McKenzie Arena. It was the team’s 28th consecutive home win.
“I thought we were more aggressive, more engaged and more responsible in the second half,” Foster said. “The ball moved around and we scored in a lot of ways. We did that because we moved the ball.”
UTC (2-1) sprinted out to a quick 7-2 advantage, but Ashlen Dewart — who played only five minutes Sunday due to foul trouble — went to the bench with her second foul with 16:52 left in the half. Belmont quickly went on a 13-2 run, and led for the majority of the half, stretching their lead to 36-27 on a coast-to-coast layup by Adrienne Tarrence right before the halftime buzzer.
By the stats, the teams played even in the first half. Belmont shot only one percentage point (42-41) better than the Lady Mocs, and the teams had similar numbers in rebounds and assists, yet the Lady Bruins’ lead was primarily based on their 9-for-9 shooting at the free-throw line in the first half. The Lady Mocs were 1-for-4.
Yet, in the second half a lot of those numbers changed. UTC (2-1) had 13 assists to only three turnovers in the final 20 minutes, while shooting 55.6 percent (15-for-27) from the field and 18-for-22 at the line. Belmont managed only 31 percent shooting, missed all five of their three-point attempts and turned the ball over nine times.
They took the lead for good on a 3-pointer from the corner by Alex Black with 5:28 remaining and never looked back.
“I wasn’t so sure about [getting the win] in the first half,” said Dupree, who turned 23 on Sunday. “We came out a little rough, but I’m glad we got the win. We played well in the second half. We were moving the ball, executing and scoring in different ways. We weren’t just doing the same things offensively — we were trying to get people open.”
Hall, who led the team in rebounds (9), assists (5), steals (4) and tied Dupree with three blocks — all to go along with 17 points – said there was a chance the team still had a hangover from their 80-56 loss to the University of Tennessee last Thursday.
“It was almost as though there was a carryover from UT to today, but we discussed things at the half,” she said. “From there, we did a better job and things started to open up.”
Jordyn Luffman led Belmont (2-2) with 18 points and 11 rebounds. She was the only Lady Bruin in double figures. UTC starting guards Alicia Payne, Meghan Downes and Tatianna Jackson each finished with 10 points, with Payne adding four assists and no turnovers. The Lady Mocs have two more home games this calendar year — Thursday against Alabama-Birmingham and next Sunday against Auburn.
Foster was pleased the team got back in the win column after the loss to the Lady Vols.
“When you have a bad day, what do you do?” he said. “You have to do something fun, or something that changes a bad day. Nothing’s different here. There’s nothing nice about losing … nothing you feel good about. It gets in your craw, and until you win again, that’s still there and you’ve gotta change it.
“I’m glad we were able to figure out how to make it a good day.”
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.