Steals helping Chattanooga's Lady Mocs win

photo UTC head coach Wes Moore instructs the Lady Mocs in the first half of a basketball game at McKenzie Area.
photo Kayla Christopher of UTC advances against Wofford's Chanel Stokes in a November game at McKenzie Arena.

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball team stole the ball from Wofford 16 times in Monday's 63-44 win. Eleven of those steals led to points for the Lady Mocs.

In all, 25 of UTC's 63 points were scored on the possession following a steal.

"We just needed energy, and defense is a way to make that happen," said UTC freshman guard Tatianna Jackson, who scored six of her seven points after Lady Mocs steals. "We're trying to make plays and get after it."

Jackson made three steals herself.

The Lady Mocs are alone in first place in the Southern Conference following Monday's game. At 18-3 overall and 11-1 in the league, they are just ahead of Davidson (13-8, 10-1), followed by Elon and Appalachian State with three league losses each.

Samford (11-10, 8-4), UTC's opponent tonight at McKenzie Arena, is in fifth place.

The Lady Mocs were last in the SoCon last season with 6.3 steals a game. This season, they are averaging 10.2. UTC's steals total heading into tonight's game is 215, 15 more than all of last season.

Steals mean stops, and they often mean easy baskets at the other end. Alex Black led UTC with 14 points Monday and eight of her points came after steals, including a 3-point basket late in the first half that put UTC up 24-23 at the break and a 3 to start the second half.

"We came out in the second half and we knew we needed to be the aggressors," Black said, adding that getting about a dozen steals a game is what UTC "should be doing. Some nights it comes easier than others."

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In their 66-60 win at Samford on Jan. 23, the Lady Mocs forced the Bulldogs into 23 turnovers. UTC had eight steals in that game, including three each by Jackson and Kayla Christopher.

"That's very unusual for a Samford team," UTC coach Wes Moore said of the turnovers. "They usually take very good care of the ball."

The Lady Mocs outscored Samford 17-8 in points off turnovers and certainly wouldn't mind duplicating that tonight.