For the most part, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball coach Jim Foster and his staff have done a good job of game-planning ways to take away an opponents' top offensive weapon so far this season -- namely in conference play.
Davidson's leading scorer, Laura Murray, was held to eight points when the teams played last Monday -- 10 below her average. Georgia Southern's Anne Claire Knight came into the game against the Mocs on Jan. 4 averaging over 15 points per contest. She was limited to nine.
The lone exception was a game in late November when Minnesota guard Rachel Banham torched UTC for 36 points in a 63-62 defeat of the Mocs on Nov. 29. This evening, they will get another opportunity when they play Appalachian State in a conference game, as junior forward Maryah Sydnor leads the Southern Conference with an average of 19.9 points per game.
"We definitely try to take away a team's better scorers, and have the 3, 4 and 5 scorers have big nights to beat you," Foster said. "Appalachian State is going to press, but they're going to fall back into a zone. It's good that we play several pressing teams in a row because when you're preparing for you, you're preparing for two, so it's a good thing."
The Lady Mountaineers have been a "high-risk, high-reward" team, as they currently sit third in the conference in turnovers forced at 17.1 per game, yet sit last in the conference in turnovers at 20.6. No player on the Appalachian State team has more assists than turnovers -- something the Mocs pride themselves in, as they currently are tops in the conference in turnovers per game at 12.3 per contest. The Lady Mountaineers play a similar style to Western Carolina -- the Mocs' opponent Saturday -- with high pressure trying to force mistakes leading to easy baskets.
The Mocs had only 11 turnovers in a 77-57 victory over the Lady Catamounts, three of which came from their freshman. At the end of the game, Foster had five members of his six-member freshman class on the court at the same time, which bodes well for the current and future depth of the team, as the coaching staff believes that the youth can be in the game, yet be effective.
"I really think we're improving as a class. It's nice to have your classmates out there with you," said freshman guard Chelsey Shumpert, who had a game-high 16 points Saturday, said. "It comes together in practice all of the time.
"We just have to know that in three years we will still be together."
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.