WOMEN’S NCAA AUTOMATIC BIDS
• Albany (N.Y.), America East Conference
• Chattanooga, Southern Conference
• Fordham, Atlantic 10 Conference
• Marist, Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference
• Nebraska, Big Ten Conference
• Notre Dame, Atlantic Coast Conference
• Southern Cal, Pacific-12 Conference
• Tennessee, Southeastern Conference
• UConn, American Athletic Conference
• UT-Martin, Ohio Valley Conference
• Winthrop, Big South Conference
ASHEVILLE, N.C. — Chelsey Shumpert was the first to break down the "Nae-Nae" dance, moments after the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's 71-45 women's basketball victory over Davidson on Monday. Moments later, Ka'Vonne Towns and others joined in, and the significance was simple.
The Mocs are going dancing, NCAA tournament-style.
UTC (29-3) had one of its most complete performances of a superb season in the Southern Conference championship game at the U.S. Cellular Center. The win was the Mocs' 23rd consecutive, and they improved to 21-0 against Southern Conference competition this season.
They also improved to 15-0 all-time in conference tournament finals.
"We're a good team. It's about time we showed how good we are," UTC coach Jim Foster said after the players received their trophy and cut down the nets.
Alex Black, Ashlen Dewart and Taylor Hall were selected to the all-tournament team, with Hall being named the most valuable player. Foster became the first coach in NCAA history to take four different programs to the NCAA women's tournament, as the Mocs join St. Joseph's, Vanderbilt and Ohio State.
"We played well, and we played with the intensity necessary," Foster said. "We had one blip defensively in our first game [in the tournament] where we lost our minds a little bit, but we played the next two days with the intensity and intelligence needed to win something like this."
Dewart went out of the game with 4:11 left in the first half with an injury. Her status is uncertain, although the team will have a week and a half before playing in the NCAA tournament first round.
Black scored a career-high 22 points, on 9-for-13 shooting. Hall had 12 points, seven rebounds and five assists, while Towns and Faith Dupree had 10 points each. The Mocs trumped a first half in which they shot 44 percent with a 54 percent (14-for-24) rate in the final 20 minutes in pulling away from the Wildcats (16-16), who move to the Atlantic 10 next season.
"We have so many good players that it's hard to focus on anybody," Black said. "I tried to take advantage of it, because they weren't super focused on me until I started hitting shots. We have so many people that can step up at different times, but I feel I step up when we need it the most."
The Mocs assumed control of the game with a 12-1 run in the first half, holding Davidson without a field goal for 6:32. The Wildcats cut the margin to nine on a Dakota Dukes free throw, but UTC led 35-22 at halftime.
The Mocs then had a 12-0 second-half run that put the game away, but even as it became obvious that they were going to win, Foster refused to stop and smell the roses -- or taste the victory.
"I had just put two freshmen in the game, and I wanted them to do well, so I had to focus on them," he joked. "Afterwards, I was trying to stay away from climbing the ladder, because my wife would see it and she'd know them that I could do stuff and expect me to do work."
Davidson's Laura Murray scored 17 points on 7-for-22 shooting, while Dukes had 14. Murray became the program's all-time leading scorer on a layup with 1:03 remaining. The Lady Wildcats shot 32.7 percent from the floor and committed 17 turnovers.
"We played a tough game," Davidson coach Michele Savage said. "We fought hard, but the ball didn't bounce [our way] today. We struggled on the defensive end, but we stayed in it. We got shots off, but they weren't falling for us. I thought they contested a lot of the shots and we had a hard time making them with a hand in our face."
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.