The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball team didn't have the ideal start in its Southern Conference home game Friday evening against Elon, but there was plenty to be excited about at the finish.
The Mocs used a late first-half spurt to pull even with the visiting Phoenix. They then assumed control of the game and registered a 69-55 victory in front of 2,167 -- their fifth time going over the 2,000 mark this season. UTC improved to 25-3 overall and 17-0 in the conference with its 21st consecutive victory and 33rd straight in SoCon play.
The Mocs can extend their nation-leading home-court win streak to 39 games Sunday afternoon against UNC Greensboro, starting at 2 p.m. Five seniors -- Alex Black, Ashlen Dewart, Meghan Downes, Faith Dupree and Taylor Hall -- will be honored before the game.
Hall had 15 points and six assists Friday, while Dewart added 14 points and a team-high eight rebounds. Freshman Aryanna Gilbert chipped in 11 points and four steals.
Jenifer Rhodes had 16 points to lead Elon (13-15, 9-8), while Kelsey Harris had 10.
The Mocs had 22 assists on 26 made baskets for the game and held Elon to 7-for-22 shooting (31.8 percent) in the second half. They also out-rebounded the Phoenix 24-15 in the second half, with 12 offensive rebounds.
"We picked up our intensity," Dewart said of the defensive effort. "We talked a lot more, moved better and helped each other out, and the guards did a good job of getting out and running."
Dewart added four assists Friday, including a couple of full-court passes in transition that led to easy layups during an early-second-half run.
A 3-pointer by Zora Stephenson gave Elon a 25-18 lead with five minutes to go in the opening half. The Mocs' efficiency improved after that, as they hit their final eight shots of the first half, including a nice dish from Chelsey Shumpert to Dewart with five seconds to go that gave them a 33-31 lead at the break.
Hall was big in the run, hitting the first three shots during the spurt.
"Elon was just really aggressive on the floor, and we didn't match it. It got us down and we had to overcome it," Hall said. "I knew somebody needed to try and get us going, and I had some opportunities to get to the basket. Some lanes opened up."
The Mocs' lead reached double digits on a Black 3-pointer from the corner that made it 51-39 with 11:47 remaining in the game as they started to score baskets in transition. They continued to build on that margin, stretching it to 21 on back-to-back layups by Aryanna Gilbert, and emptied the bench shortly thereafter.
"I think we moved the ball better late in the first half," Dewart said. "We started out taking our own initiative to score and weren't playing team ball, but I think we started to do better towards the end of the first half and that poured into the second half."
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.