In a game of spurts and runs, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball team made the one that mattered most.
Having seen an 18-point lead completely erased in the second half of their Southern Conference game Saturday night against Georgia Southern, the Mocs went on a 10-0 run, holding the Eagles scoreless for a 5:08 stretch and holding on for a 69-60 victory in front of 1,939 fans at McKenzie Arena. The Mocs' 31st consecutive home win -- second-longest in the nation -- was their first home game in 40 days and first game at all since Dec. 21.
"It's good to finally be back here," UTC senior Alex Black said. "We were joking around that it felt like an away game because we hadn't been here in so long.
Taylor Hall totaled 15 points, six steals and five assists in the win. Black had 12 points, while Ka'Vonne Towns and Ashlen Dewart each scored 11.
The Mocs (11-3, 3-0) led 42-24 a minute into the second half, but a flurry of turnovers and missed shots and a lack of defense led to the Eagles' flurry, as they clawed back to tie the game at 49 on a three-point play by Sierra Kirkland with 10:19 remaining.
"I think it came down to our effort," Hall said of the Eagles' comeback. "We got the lead, got complacent and started to relax. We have to play like it's a tie game, regardless of the score.
"We shouldn't have lost that lead."
Towns came up big after the game was tied. After hitting a pair of free throws, she forced one of her three steals and drove downcourt, only to get fouled. Two more free throws by the junior made it 53-49, and then Hall had two scores and Tatianna Jackson added one to stretch the lead back out to 10. The Eagles would creep back within six (61-55) on a deep 3-pointer by Lacie Dowling with 3:03 remaining, but it was as close as they would get.
"I thought the mental effort wasn't there and we were casual," UTC coach Jim Foster said. "Two weeks is a long time to go without a game. Then you have to get back in the grind.
"We have to understand what 40 minutes is, and games like this are good to remind you. Games take on many different shapes and forms, and this was a game of runs and it's difficult to maintain that flow. We had a bad spurt defensively in the second half and a bad spurt offensively when we kept turning the ball over. I think we finally started to play defense and became a little more patient on offense.
"When we move the ball, we're hard to guard, but when we stand still and try to make plays ourselves, we're easy to guard."
The Mocs had 13 assists on 14 made baskets in the first half, with only four turnovers. They finished with 17 assists and 16 turnovers.
Mimi Dubose led the Eagles (3-11, 1-2) with 16 points, while Kirkland added 11. Anna Claire Knight, the conference's third-leading scorer coming in at 15.9 points per game, finished with nine -- her first time in 13 games below double digits.
Jordi Cook, who prepped at Northwest Whitfield, had three points.
The Mocs host Davidson on Monday at 7.
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.