Ordinarily, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball coach Wes Moore doesn't like playing the Southern Conference tournament in McKenzie Arena. This year might have been an exception.
Not only did the Lady Mocs (21-8) go 12-0 in the Roundhouse this season, but in her last three games on her home court, sophomore forward Taylor Hall scored 19, 16 and 24 points, with a combined 33 rebounds in those three games.
The conference player of the week and an All-SoCon selection by the coaches, Hall is on a roll heading into tonight's tournament quarterfinal game at Kimmel Arena in Asheville, N.C.
"A lot of it was mental," said Hall, who averaged 8.8 points and 8.7 rebounds a game during the regular season. "Once I started knocking shots down, I just got more confident."
Those stats don't paint a complete picture of her contributions this season. Hall has led UTC in rebounding 19 times and in scoring six times and has six double-doubles. Her scoring numbers likely would have been even better if she hadn't gone through a rough shooting stretch while playing with a sprained finger.
"I think definitely having her finger healed and not having a tape job on it can't help but make a difference," Moore said. "But I also think, too, the second half of the Davidson game [on Feb. 25] in particular, she went out and shot the ball well and didn't worry about things."
Against Davidson, Hall scored 14 of her 16 points in the second half. Two nights later, she closed out the regular season with a 24-point, eight-rebound performance in UTC's confidence-building 80-71 win over co-champion Appalachian State.
Hall went 5-for-6 from 3-point range - the five 3s were a career best, as were her 24 points - and played a team-high 38 minutes. The Lady Mocs also got 20 points from Whitney Hood in the win, so it wasn't a solo act.
One area where Hall's play did make a big difference was against the press. Her ball-handling ability allowed UTC to move the ball up the court effectively, especially late in the game when the Mountaineers ratcheted up their pressure.
"It was a combination of her shooting the ball well, but also having her kind of quarterbacking the team against the press that made it hard to get her off the court," Moore said.
After initially deciding not to play college basketball following her stellar career at Morristown West High School, Hall joined the Lady Mocs last December. In 20 games last season, she averaged 4.0 points and 2.6 rebounds.
Hall never really got going after joining the team, but she's been an impact player throughout her sophomore season.
"I guess I wasn't really sure what to expect from this season, but I just knew I needed to come in and play hard," she said. "Whatever the team needed me to do, I was prepared to do."
What Moore wants her to do is keep knocking down shots and chasing down rebounds.
"We go with the hot hand," Moore said, "and she's definitely the hot hand."