Ashlen Dewart carried the offensive load in the first half Thursday night for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and seniors Kayla Christopher and Kylie Lambert made veteran plays down the stretch.
In the Southern Conference opener for UTC and Wofford, Dewart scored 29 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in the Lady Mocs' 68-54 win at McKenzie Arena. It was win No. 31 in a row for UTC against the Terriers, and the Lady Mocs led the whole game, but they didn't put it away until the final few minutes.
The highlight play of the closing stretch ended with a Dewart layup. It started with the 6-foot-3 center getting a defensive rebound, taking a few dribbles toward midcourt, passing the ball to Christopher and then getting it back for an easy basket and a 65-52 lead with 2:11 remaining.
"It did cross my mind [to keep dribbling], but I don't think that would have been the smartest thing to do," said Dewart, who had 21 points and 10 rebounds against Wofford in 2011 when she played for Appalachian State.
UTC coach Wes Moore, whose Lady Mocs (5-1) have won 16 in a row at the Roundhouse, said Dewart revealed something on that play.
"She messed up because now I know she's capable of running the floor, so I'll expect to see that same effort going back the other way defensively," Moore said.
The Lady Mocs weren't particularly sharp (11-for-29 shooting in the second half), nor did they take great care of the ball (16 turnovers). However, they did a lot of things right: 50-31 rebound advantage, 15 assists, 13 steals.
Dewart started out 5-of-7 from the field, while her teammates were 1-for-7. Wofford (4-2) was able to keep things tight in the first half thanks to 15 points from guard Rachel Brittenham. Moore put Lambert on Brittenham in the second half, and Lambert held her to two points.
"That was a big key in us being able to pull it out in the second half, I think," Christopher said.
Wofford kept hanging around, in part because UTC missed 13 of its 27 free throws for the game, and Jordan Frazier's 3-pointer with 5:51 to play cut the margin to 53-50.
That's when the UTC veterans took command.
Christopher hit a 15-footer, followed by two free throws. Lambert forced a bad Wofford shot and grabbed the rebound; on the ensuing possession she rebounded her own miss and Alex Black hit a jumper for a 59-50 advantage.
Christopher finished with 16 points, Lambert had six plus five rebounds and Taylor Hall added eight rebounds, five assists and four steals.