Jim Foster will coach his first official game as the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball coach tonight against Alabama at McKenzie Arena.
The Hall of Fame coach still isn't sure quite what to make of his team because he's so seldom had all of it, especially all six seniors, available during the preseason because of injuries. That showed in Monday's 46-44 exhibition win against Lee, a game the Mocs had to close on an 11-2 run to win.
Foster said he doesn't yet know what the strength of this team will be.
"To be determined," said the man with 783 career wins. "I'm not one that tries to be a prophet. We'll see as we go forward. I don't have enough of a feel for the veterans as a group, because we haven't had them as a group except for about three days."
What Foster and his players probably do know is that UTC can't shoot the way it did against Lee and expect to beat a Southeastern Conference team. The Mocs were 18-of-51 from the field, 3-of-13 from 3-point range and just 7-of-20 from the free-throw line.
Foster said UTC's offensive struggles were mostly the result of a lack of ball movement. Lee packed its defense in around the paint to try to slow Ashlen Dewart or Faith Dupree, depending on who was playing the 5 spot, and UTC failed to work the ball around enough to find a good open shot.
"The other night doesn't mean anything to me, other than get your kinks out," Foster said. "The shooting was more a reflection of playing five against three and trying to score too early against a team that was sitting in the lane and not stretching them out."
Senior forward Dewart, the preseason pick for Southern Conference player of the year, said watching the video of the exhibition wasn't much fun.
"It was real quiet and ugly, but we knew it would be," she said. "We needed to see it and we need to learn from it. Obviously we're not at all happy with the way we performed, but you're going to have games like that and you've got to learn and grow from it."
The Mocs famously opened the 2012-13 season with an 80-71 upset of Tennessee at the Roundhouse. A month later, they went to Tuscaloosa and beat the Crimson Tide 72-58. Those wins helped springboard UTC to a 29-4 season that included SoCon regular-season and tournament titles.
Senior forward Taylor Hall said a difficult opening game against an SEC school should let UTC know right away what its strength and weaknesses are.
"It's a tough game and we'll really get to see where we stand from the beginning, against a good team," Hall said. "We can't make mistakes like we did against Lee, and we can't play the way we did against Lee."
Tonight's game is scheduled for 7:30, after the UTC men's season opener against Covenant College.
Contact John Frierson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6268. Follow him at twitter.com/MocsBeat.