BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball team had a 15-point lead after less than four minutes Wednesday night at Samford. The margin was two with 1:10 to play.
A game that looked like it might be a Lady Mocs runaway was a nail-biter for the final 10 minutes as UTC couldn't pull away and Samford wouldn't go away. The Bulldogs cut the UTC lead to two multiple times in the final 13 minutes, but they could never tie or take the lead.
The Lady Mocs made the plays at the end for a 66-60 win at the Pete Hanna Center.
"That says a lot about these kids and their grit and toughness," Lady Mocs coach Wes Moore said of holding off Samford's rally. "It was a big win, no doubt."
The victory moves UTC (15-3, 8-1 Southern Conference) alone into first place in the league standings, just ahead of Elon (10-7, 7-1), which was off Wednesday.
Samford (9-9, 6-3) got a huge night from guard Jazmine Martin, who hit 14 of 18 shots and scored a game-high 31 points.
"We wanted to try to take away Taylor Reece, slow her down, and our kids did a great job defensively there," Moore said. "But [Martin], we just had no answer for her."
Meghan Downes started in place of Kylie Lambert, who was out with shin splints. It was the second career start for Downes, a junior, while for the senior Lambert it snapped a streak of 79 consecutive starts dating back to the second game of her sophomore season.
Ashlen Dewart scored scored eight of UTC's final nine points during the closing 3:57, going 4-for-4 from the free-throw line, to lead the Lady Mocs with 14 points. Kayla Christopher and Taylor Hall scored 12 and Tatianna Jackson added nine points and nine rebounds.
After Martin hit a jumper to make it 62-60 with 1:10 to play, Dewart scored inside with 46 seconds left. Martin then missed a 3 and UTC was able to close out the win.
The Lady Mocs host Appalachian State at McKenzie Arena on Saturday.