UTC Lady Mocs need to win out for title shot

UTC Lady Mocs need to win out for title shot

February 17th, 2012 by John Frierson in Sports - College

Lady Mocs junior Kayla Christopher, left, charges around Samford senior Ruth Ketcham during a game at McKenzie arena.

Photo by Doug Strickland/Times Free Press.

The bottom line, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball coach Wes Moore said, is the Lady Mocs are "to that point where we've got to win out and take care of business."

Heading into Saturday's game at Western Carolina, UTC sits alone in third place in the Southern Conference standings. A loss in Cullowhee, N.C., would almost certainly end any chance of regaining the SoCon crown, which UTC (18-7, 13-3) won 11 years in a row before the streak ended last season.

"If we can't do our job and get it done Saturday, I don't think anything else matters," Moore said.

Defending regular-season champion Appalachian State (21-3, 15-1) is in first, followed by Davidson (18-7, 14-2) and UTC. Samford, which won the SoCon tournament a year ago, is in fourth (15-9, 10-5). The top four teams all still have games against one another in the final two weeks of the season.

Davidson, which handed Appalachian State its only Socon loss, hosts the Mountaineers on Saturday. In the final two games of the season, both Davidson and App State will play at UTC and Samford.

"I want us to cling to the possibility of winning the regular season," Moore said. "Hopefully we will fight and battle with that in mind. There's a whole lot still left to be claimed. At the same time, no matter what happens, in two weeks you start over [at the SoCon tournament]."

Moore isn't comfortable with the position he's in - being top dog in the league for more than a decade can make any spot other than first untenable - and he doesn't care for needing help from other teams to have a shot at the title.

That's what made UTC's Feb. 6 loss at Furman so costly. Before that 75-61 defeat, which snapped a 21-game winning streak versus the Paladins, the Lady Mocs would have earned at least a share of the title if they won their remaining games. Now UTC has to beat Western Carolina, Samford, Davidson and App State, plus get some help from another team beating the Mountaineers.

"We were right there within striking distance," Moore said.

The Lady Mocs followed the Furman loss with comfortable wins over the College of Charleston and Georgia Southern, and UTC played much better against GSU than the Cougars. Kayla Christopher and Taylor Hall each hit 3-pointers against the Eagles, part of an 8-for-17 performance by UTC from outside the arc.

Hall had a career night with 19 points and 15 rebounds against Georgia Southern.

The top priority remains trying to earn at least a share of the SoCon title, but the other factor at play is building momentum and confidence heading into the tournament, which starts two weeks from today in Asheville, N.C.

"We'd like to have some good momentum going into the tournament," Hall said. "Hopefully we can build some momentum and keep it going.

"We know how important [winning the SoCon] is, and we're going to do everything we can to get it done."