Down 12-3 early against Elon on Saturday and badly needing some kind of spark to get things going, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball team got it from its bench.
Faith Dupree scored inside and later got a steal. Alicia Payne turned the corner on a pick by Ashlen Dewart and drove the lane for a layup. Tatianna Jackson scored inside and then did so again after a Payne steal. A few minutes later, Jackson hit a 3-pointer (assist from Payne) to tie the game at 16 with 5:38 left in the first half.
By halftime, Southern Conference-leading UTC (20-3, 13-1) had a 25-18 lead and its bench had outscored Elon's 15-4.
"Our bench did a great job tonight," UTC coach Wes Moore said following the 63-40 blowout win, the Lady Mocs' 10th consecutive victory. "A lot of people stepped up. A big part of that was Tatianna and Faith."
Dupree, who has struggled at times since returning from a knee injury, was 4-for-6 from the field and scored 11 points in seven minutes.
Jackson led UTC with a career-high 14 points, going 6-for-8 from the field. She also had three rebounds, three assists and two steals. The freshman didn't hesitate when asked if it was the best game of her career.
"Oh, yes," she said with a big smile.
The Lady Mocs, who host UNC Greensboro (5-17, 2-11) today at McKenzie Arena in the first game of a UTC doubleheader, often excel when they go to their bench. When Jackson and Ka'Vonne Towns are on the court together, they seem to almost be competing to see who can play with the most energy and come up with the most steals and layups.
So far this season the sophomore Towns has 32 steals and Jackson has 28. Taylor Hall, who has played 239 more minutes than Towns, leads the team with 36 steals.
"It's a lot of fun playing with [Towns]," Jackson said. "She always makes a great pass or steal. ... We're similar style players in that we both love defense and like to get after it."
Six of UTC's 11 steals came from its bench Saturday and UTC's bench outscored Elon's 31-8. In last Wednesday's win over Samford, UTC's bench had a 21-1 scoring advantage. In the past seven games, UTC's bench has outscored the opponents' by a combined 152-63.