It was on a sour note that the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball team began a weeklong break Thursday. The night before, the Lady Mocs missed shot after shot in a 53-40 loss at Auburn.
It was a bad ending to a positive opening stretch of the season. That included the historic win over Tennessee, a convincing win at Alabama and a pair of Southern Conference victories.
UTC (8-2) doesn't play again until Jan. 2, when it visits UAB, and doesn't return to practice until Dec. 28. That's a long time to live with a 15-for-55 shooting performance, including 4-for-31 from 3-point range.
"I hate to say too much," said Lady Mocs coach Wes Moore, who hit the road Thursday for several days of recruiting. "If we'd have hit some shots, it would have been a different game. We're 8-2, our kids did really well academically and it's been a pretty good semester. But you hate to go out like this.
"At least it's not the end of the season and you've got time to try to change it."
One aspect of the Auburn loss that has Moore concerned is that the Tigers (9-2) play a lot like SoCon rival Appalachian State. Both teams like to press and then drop into a zone defense, which UTC didn't handle very well Wednesday. The Lady Mocs had 22 turnovers and sometimes struggled to get the ball into Ashlen Dewart in the post, which is part of the reason they attempted 31 3s.
"You can't always get the ball inside like you would like to," Moore said, "and if you've got wide-open looks, at some point you've got to knock them down."
The Lady Mocs went 8-for-16 from 3-point range in the first half at Alabama on Dec. 8. In the five halves of ball since then, they've made only 12 of 73 attempts.
Moore remains confident that his long-range shooters can make shots. But he also thinks they need to put in the work to be consistently accurate. Extra work is needed throughout the team, he said.
"You hope that maybe they go home and reflect and try to do something about it," he said. "We've got two months left in the season, essentially, before March, and we need to make sure we're not the same team two months from now that we are right now."
One change that could come well before March is the return of center Faith Dupree, who has been out with a knee injury since Nov. 17. Moore said the junior's rehab is "going well," but no return date has been set. He said he's hoping she can return in January.