With Taylor Hall slowed with some sickness Monday evening and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's 19-game women's basketball winning streak in serious jeopardy against Samford in Birmingham, coach Jim Foster needed somebody who was going to hit a couple shots and alleviate the load of the standout forward.
He found two.
Starting guards Chelsey Shumpert and Alex Black were huge down the stretch, including both overtimes, in the Mocs' 74-67 victory over the Bulldogs. Shumpert totaled 17 points and seven rebounds in 35 minutes, while Black added 16 points and three steals in 42 minutes of play. They combined to shoot 13-for-24 from the field and were at their best when the team needed it most.
Trailing 54-49 with 2:16 to go, the Mocs scored the final five points in regulation, all by the starting guards. Black had a pair of free throws, then forced a steal that led to Shumpert being fouled. The freshman made only one of two free throws, but Samford's Lydia McGee turned the ball over and Foster ran a play for Black, and the senior hit a foul-line jumper to send the game into overtime.
"We had some people that just were not aggressive enough, and at a certain point in the game they got more aggressive," Foster said Monday. "Alex has got to shoot the ball: She's got a terrific midrange jump shot, and that's what we went to, to send the game in the first overtime.
"Chelsey is an offensive talent - she's got a game. She can shoot the 3 and attack the rim - two good things."
Shumpert hit key 3-pointers in both overtimes. Her triple in the first extra period briefly gave the Mocs a one-point edge, and her 3 in the second overtime period, with 3 on the shot clock, broke a 67-all tie with 1:23 remaining and gave UTC the lead for good.
"I was just trying to keep my team in it," Shumpert said Monday. "It didn't matter who hit the shots as long as we win - that's all I'm worried about. We had to fight through, but we got the win."
Despite her sickness, Hall was named the Southern Conference player of the week for the third time this season. The 6-foot-1 senior had 20 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and four steals against Samford. A player of the year candidate, she is averaging 15 points, 8.8 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.4 steals - top five in the conference in each category.
The Mocs (24-3, 16-0) took Tuesday off and get back to practice this morning in preparation for their game Friday against Elon. They end the season with a Sunday game against UNC Greensboro.
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.