ASHEVILLE, N.C. - The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's long win streak was never really in doubt Saturday at Kimmel Arena.
The top seed in the Southern Conference women's basketball tournament, UTC overcame some lackadaisical stretches before cruising to its 17th consecutive win, 78-53, against No. 8 seed Georgia Southern.
In many ways, the game was decided on the perimeter. Offensively, UTC (27-3) went 11-for-23 from 3-point range. Defensively, the Lady Mocs played much better defense around the arc in the second half.
UTC point guard Alex Black tied a career high with three 3s and led the Lady Mocs with 13 points.
"I wanted to come out shooting well because I hadn't been the past couple of games, so I just focused on that," Black said.
Defensively, Georgia Southern (8-23) was determined to shut down center Ashlen Dewart. The Eagles swarmed her often -- she finished with eight points and seven rebounds -- and that forced the Lady Mocs to make jump shots.
"They were doubling Ashlen and clamping down in there on her, and that's what our job is when they do that," said guard Kayla Christopher, who hit two 3s and scored 12 points. "We're the ones that are open, so it's our job to knock shots down."
An 18-2 run early in the second half blew the game open for good. After the Lady Mocs didn't play for a week, it was a decent start to the tournament, Christopher said.
"We're still building off of today," she said, "and hopefully we're playing our best ball by Monday."
To get to Monday's championship game, UTC will have to go through Appalachian State (20-9) in the semifinals today at noon (ESPN3.com) at the U.S. Cellular Center. The No. 4 seed, ASU defeated No. 5 College of Charleston, 74-60, in Saturday's second quarterfinal.
UTC coach Wes Moore said the posts, Dewart and Faith Dupree, were too passive at times against GSU's defense. Dupree likes playing outside the paint, and between jumpers and cuts to the basket she scored 12 points, going 6-for-9 from the field.
"They did a nice job collapsing, and I didn't think our post players did a real good job in the first half of sealing and holding a pin," Moore said. "We just kind of were facing the ball and floating to the ball."
GSU's Anna Claire Knight and MiMi DuBose combined for 24 points in the opening period, and that kept the Eagles close -- until UTC closed the first half on a 17-7 run for a 42-32 lead at the break. Better defense was needed in the second half, Christopher said.
"We didn't want to let them sit out there and shoot, just play h-o-r-s-e with them," Christopher said. "We realized that we'd done that, and at halftime we made adjustments."
Knight and DuBose were held to a combined four points in the second half, and as a team GSU shot just 22.2 percent from the field.