There were some surprised when University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball coach Jim Foster scrapped his lineup in the second half of the game against Colorado State on Dec. 1. But don't count any of his players among them.
And with Foster's latest vision, there's no reason to doubt any of his future plans, either.
Foster said last week on a radio broadcast that in upcoming seasons, games are in the plans with national powers Stanford and Notre Dame -- and possibly Connecticut. The Mocs are very close to finalizing a road game to Palo Alto, Calif., for next season, as well as a trip to South Bend, Ind., to take on the Fighting Irish during the 2014-15 season.
"We think it'll be a good experience for our student-athletes," Foster said Monday. "I just think the college experience is what you make it for the players, and we want to give them that opportunity to play against the best players in the country, and give them a shot on a national stage."
As for the present, the Mocs (5-3) are looking to shake off a less-than-average experience in three games in Honolulu over the Thanksgiving break. They found themselves behind by double digits in each game, rallying in the second halves but dropping close contests to Minnesota and Hawaii before defeating the Lady Rams in the finale.
In that game, Foster switched his lineup in the second half, playing three and sometimes four freshmen at a tune.
"The thing is, he told us he was going to do it," UTC senior center Ashlen Dewart said. "Coach Foster is definitely a man of his word, so we knew it was going to happen when it did."
It could help to serve as a chance to develop depth later in the season, as the freshmen gained valuable experience in a big-game setting. They took advantage of their opportunity, scoring the first 23 points of the second half and 28 of the team's 32 in their eventual 59-57 victory -- a win capped by two free throws by freshman Chelsey Shumpert with 2.1 seconds remaining.
The team returned to practice last Wednesday, and both Foster and senior Taylor Hall said the tone was more competitive.
"There was definitely a lot more energy," Hall said. "Having the freshmen playing well will help us out in the long term; it will give us a burst of energy when we need it."
The Mocs visit Jacksonville State (2-6) tonight at 8 EST. It begins a stretch in which the Mocs play five games in 12 days -- all on the road.
"We just need to focus on who we need to be," Foster said. "We are a lot closer to getting to understand that. We've dug ourselves some holes and we've proven we can be resilient. Now we just need to start getting better."
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.