These Southern Conference wins would be a lot easier for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball team if the Lady Mocs could hold on to their big leads.
In UTC's 59-55 defeat of Appalachian State on Saturday night at McKenzie Arena, the Lady Mocs led by 15 with 15:41 to play. The crowd of 2,636 was roaring and a rival looked like it might get run out of the Roundhouse.
UTC made one field goal the rest of the game.
With 2:16 remaining, the Mountaineers had a 55-53 lead. UTC's Taylor Hall tied the game with a pull-up jumper from 13 feet with 1:20 to play.
Two Kayla Christopher free throws put SoCon-leading UTC (16-3, 9-1) up 57-55 with 33.6 seconds left. After a Ka'Vonne Towns steal, Hall iced the game with an offensive rebound and two free throws.
"We're used to pressure situations and overcoming them," said Hall, who had a game-high 15 points and 11 rebounds.
In Monday's 66-60 win at Samford, UTC led by 15 early and held on at the end. Against Appalachian State (12-4, 6-2), which had won four of the last five meetings, the Lady Mocs survived a massive scoring drought in the second half.
UTC was up 44-29 with 15:41 remaining. With 7:31 left, it was 45-all. Multiple Lady Mocs made plays down the stretch, including Ashlen Dewart, the Appalachian State transfer, who finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds.
"It was pretty fun," Dewart said of the win. "It was a really good feeling."
After Christopher's free throws put UTC in front 57-55, Lady Mocs coach Wes Moore decided to put a small and speedy lineup on the floor. With 6-foot-3 players Dewart and Faith Dupree on the bench, UTC had quickness at all five positions -- and that put Towns in position to steal the ball with 16 seconds left.
"Some people [among the UTC coaching staff] thought we should stay the way we were, so I'm glad it worked out the way it did," Moore said.
The last time UTC and ASU met, in the semifinals of the SoCon tournament last season, the Mountaineers routed UTC by 25 points. While Moore said Saturday's game was just the first of two regular-season meetings with Appalachian State, Hall said it meant a little more than that.
"We know we can beat them and we know that [the tournament blowout] shouldn't have happened," she said.
Christopher finished with 11 points and five assists and Kylie Lambert, who was limited to 22 minutes because of shin splints, hit three 3-pointers and scored 11 points. Tatianna Jackson filled in well for Lambert, finishing with six points and six rebounds (five offensive).
Maryah Sydnor and Katie Mallow led ASU with 12 points each. Anna Freeman, the SoCon's leading scorer at 17.7 points per game, was held to eight.