Not one to take many shots, Alicia Payne was presented a dilemma late in the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball game against Davidson on Monday. With the score tied and the shot clock winding down, Payne received the ball around the 3-point line at the elbow and turned and fired.
She knocked it down, and not long after, the chances of the Wildcats stealing a win were knocked down as well.
Payne's 3-pointer with 2:02 remaining broke a 58-all tie, and the Mocs improved to 12-3 and 4-0 in the Southern Conference with a 72-64 win in front of 1,612 fans at McKenzie Arena. It was the female Mocs' 32nd straight home victory and the seventh time they've topped the 70-point plateau this year -- all wins.
Payne had all eight of her points in the final 2:02.
"I really didn't want to take the shot, but the clock was running down and I was wide open, so I knew I had to take it," Payne said. "I took my time, took the shot and made it. When it went in, I was thinking, 'Thank you, Jesus!'
"I was happy it went in and that I could do that for my team. We really had to get tough and come together to get the win, but we wanted to push to the end whatever the outcome was."
Taylor Hall led UTC with 15 points, nine rebounds and five assists, while Tatiana Jackson tallied 10 points. Faith Dupree and Aryanna Gilbert each had nine, with Dupree adding seven rebounds.
UTC had 17 offensive rebounds and held a 40-25 edge over Davidson on the boards, as the Mocs showed an improved effort from their game against Georgia Southern on Saturday.
"I don't think it was just our rebounds, but it was our effort in all and it showed tonight," Dupree said. "In the second half, they did a better job of keeping us off the boards, but I still feel the effort was there."
The first half was all Mocs, as they led 32-21 at the break. They shot only 40 percent from the floor but had 12 offensive rebounds, leading to eight second-chance points. The lead grew to 45-32 on a 3-pointer by Dupree with 14:14 remaining in the game, but the Lady Wildcats (6-9, 3-1) went on a run, hitting four 3s during a 24-9 surge and taking a 56-54 lead on Hannah Early's 3 with 3:52 remaining.
Dupree and Hall made baskets to swing the lead back to UTC, but Dakota Dukes had a pair of free throws to tie the game with 2:27 left. After Payne's 3-pointer, she and Hall combined to hit nine of 10 free throws in sealing the win.
UTC coach Jim Foster was pleased with the Mocs' effort down the stretch.
"When you play teams that are more familiar with you, the game becomes more about the head and having to fight through stuff," Foster said. "It's more about toughness, and I thought we were very tough. Red hit the big shot; then we get a big stop because Ka'Vonne [Towns] gets a big rebound in traffic. Davidson is a very good team that executes well, plays very intelligently and exploits your weaknesses.
"The past couple of games, we've played good basketball teams that play together, and being a target, I thought we've handled that well."
Dukes led the Wildcats with 18 points, while Shannon Eriksson had 14 and Early added 12. Laura Murray, the conference's second-leading scorer coming in at 19.6 points per game, was held to nine on 3-for-11 shooting.
The Mocs hit the road Saturday to take on Western Carolina at 2 p.m.
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.