COLLEGE STATION, Texas - In the first NCAA tournament game of her career, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga junior forward Taylor Hall couldn't have gotten off to a much better start Saturday at Texas A&M's Reed Arena.
In the first 5:01 of the opening half, Hall hit three of her five shots, all of them 3-pointers. That tied a season best for 3s in a game. Unfortunately for 11th-seeded UTC, which fell to No. 6-seeded Nebraska 73-59, Hall cooled off and scored only four points the rest of the game.
All of the Lady Mocs had a hard time scoring against Nebraska's man-to-man defense in the final 15 minutes.
"I think a lot changed when they went man in the second half," said Hall, who led UTC with 13 points on 5-for-16 shooting. "In the beginning we were able to stand there and knock down 3s. Once they got up in us, we had to take tougher shots, and I think that had a lot to do with it."
Hall's hot start was in sharp contrast to her previous two games, in the semifinals and final of the Southern Conference tournament. In the first 20 minutes of both of those tight games, she scored a combined two points.
In the second half of those games she scored a combined 34, carrying UTC to the SoCon title. There wasn't any second-half magic against the Cornhuskers, who held her to 2-for-7 shooting in the final 20 minutes.
The Lady Mocs were 11-for-33 from the field in the second half.
An unlikely Chattanooga-area matchup could have taken place Monday if UTC and Wichita State, coached by Cleveland, Tenn., native Jody Adams, had advanced to the second round.
In her fifth season coaching the Shockers, Adams, a former Bradley Central and Tennessee star guard, led Wichita State its first-ever NCAA tournament appearance. The 14th-seeded Shockers lost in the first game at Reed Arena on Saturday, 71-45, to No. 3 seed Texas A&M.
The Shockers (24-10) made the tournament by winning the Missouri Valley Conference tournament for the first time after 30 years in the league.
"I think the tone has been set," Adams said. "The bar has been raised high here at Wichita State."
It was a tough finale for UTC seniors Kayla Christopher and Kylie Lambert. Christopher scored 11 points, hitting some key second-half shots, but finished 4-for-15 from the field. Lambert was 0-for-5, though she did match Alex Black with a team-high five assists.
The Lady Mocs lose Christopher and Lambert but return three starters, plus all of their contributors off the bench.
The UTC band and cheerleaders made the trip to College Station, as did interim athletic director Laura Herron. In the arms (or horns) race, UTC's band was about twice the size of Nebraska's. ... With the Wichita State band in Salt Lake City for the men's game against Gonzaga, the school brought in the band from A&M Consolidated High School in College Station as a substitute.