Lady Mocs' coach Wes Moore stays to 'reflect'

Lady Mocs' coach Wes Moore stays to 'reflect'

March 26th, 2013 by John Frierson in Sports - College

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga basketball coach Wes Moore

Photo by Brett Clark

Standout moments

There were numerous notable moments in the Lady Mocs' 29-4 season. Here are four that stand out:

  1. The season began with a shocking 80-71 upset of Tennessee at McKenzie Arena on Nov. 9. It was UTC's first win over UT in the Division I era. Taylor Hall was the star, scoring 22 points and grabbing nine rebounds.

  2. After going 19-1 in winning the Southern Conference regular-season title, UTC had to win two tight games in the semifinals and final of the league tournament. In the title game on March 11, with an NCAA tournament bid on the line, Kayla Christopher scored on a putback with 8.2 seconds left to lift UTC past Davison, 64-63.

  3. A few minutes after Christopher's game-winner, while the Lady Mocs were cutting down the nets at Asheville's U.S. Cellular Center, fellow senior Kylie Lambert got engaged at midcourt. Grant Brown stunned her and her teammates with the proposal. The wedding is scheduled for September.

  4. Back in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2010, the No. 11-seeded Lady Mocs were tied with No. 6 seed Nebraska at halftime last Saturday. UTC opened the second half with a 15-6 run to take a 47-38 lead with 15:49 to play. Nebraska switched to a man-to-man defense at the next timeout, and UTC's offense was shut down, scoring 12 points the rest of the game.

Wes Moore wasn't in his office Monday afternoon, a little less than 48 hours after his University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball team lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament. He was nowhere near the office, in fact.

"I'm strolling around the San Antonio zoo," he said in a phone interview. "I'm just chillin' and reflecting."

UTC's season came to an end last Saturday with a disappointing loss to Nebraska, 73-59, at Reed Arena in College Station, Texas. The Lady Mocs led by nine, 47-38, with less than 15 minutes to play but scored just 12 points the rest of the game after Nebraska switched to a stifling man-to-man defense.

Moore said after the game that he should have done a better job of adjusting to the Huskers' adjustment.

The next day, as the Lady Mocs sat on a bus at Easterwood Airport, waiting to be escorted to their charter flight home, a restless Moore decided he needed some time alone. He gathered his belongings, wished everyone well and got off the bus.

"At first we thought he was joking," senior wing Kylie Lambert said. "When we realized he wasn't, we all got off and yelled, 'Bye, dad!'"

The Southern Conference coach of the year then rented a car and drove to San Antonio. He's headed to Austin today and flying home Wednesday.

"I just decided to take a couple of days to unwind and reflect," he said. "It seemed like a good opportunity."

The last 15 minutes of Saturday's game aren't easy to get over for Moore or his players. A 14-2 Nebraska run put the Huskers in the lead. UTC hung tight for a while and led 57-56 with 8:11 to play but was outscored 15-2 the rest of the way.

How long does it take to shake off a loss like that?

"Probably until the first win we get next season," junior center Ashlen Dewart said. "It is probably going to pop into your head every day for a while, but you have to learn from defeat. You can't sulk and let it get you down."

The disappointing ending also can't overshadow everything the 29-4 Lady Mocs achieved this season, Lambert said. After not winning a SoCon title the past two seasons, they won the regular-season and tournament titles, tied a school record for wins and had a 19-game win streak going into the Nebraska game.

And the Lady Mocs opened the season with a historic win over Tennessee, which went on to win the SEC regular-season title and is a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament.

"There's definitely a lot to be proud of," Lambert said. "We can't let that last game take away from that. We've set records, won games that we 'weren't supposed to win,' and [the season] is definitely something to be proud of."

The Lady Mocs lose Lambert and shooting guard Kayla Christopher, two longtime starters and very important contributors, but they return three starters and all of this year's reserves. And six 2013-14 freshmen will be joining them.

Moore said the big question going into next season is finding a replacement for Christopher, who finished second all-time at UTC and third in SoCon history with 229 career 3-pointers. But such concerns can wait a while.

"I'm actually probably going to go out more in the hill country tomorrow," Moore said Monday. "Even thought about visiting a dude ranch."

Contact John Frierson at jfrierson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6268. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mocsbeatCTFP.