UTC women use strong defensive effort to knock off No. 7 Stanford

UTC's Alicia Payne gets some 1-on-1 action against Lili Thompson (1) before being blocked by Erica McCall (24) during a 54-46 UTC victory against Stanford at McKenzie in Chattanooga, Tenn., on Wednesday, December 17, 2014.
UTC's Alicia Payne gets some 1-on-1 action against Lili Thompson (1) before being blocked by Erica McCall (24) during a 54-46 UTC victory against Stanford at McKenzie in Chattanooga, Tenn., on Wednesday, December 17, 2014.

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball assistant coach Katie Burrows came out of the locker room after the Mocs' game against No. 7 Stanford, turned to the assembled fans and media members and said, "That was big time."

Big time, indeed.

UTC used a suffocating defensive effort, effective 3-point shooting and some clutch free throws down the stretch to pull off a stunning 54-46 upset of the Cardinal at McKenzie Arena on Wednesday night in front of 2,128 predominately enthusiastic Mocs fans.

"This says a lot about us, and it gives us a lot of confidence for the rest of the season," sophomore guard Chelsey Shumpert said after scoring a career-high 18 points to lead UTC to its second win over a top-10 school this season. "I think we just played hard, and that's what we do."

Shumpert and Moses Johnson -- who scored all 10 of her points for UTC in the first half -- were the only players for either team in double figures, and Jasmine Joyner had nine points, 11 rebounds and five blocks in the win. Perhaps as important, the Mocs committed just six fouls for the entire game.

"We are first in the country in fewest fouls committed," UTC coach Jim Foster said. "We work very, very hard at that, and our players are very responsive. We're not going to be as talented as some of these teams, so we have to get an edge in other areas and have to play hard and we have to play smart.

"I thought we took pretty good care of the ball, and I thought we moved their feet."

Stanford (6-3) had nine players score, led by Lili Thompson's nine points, but UTC's aggressive defense held Thompson 10 points below her average this season. Kaylee Johnson and Karlie Samuelson each scored seven, and Johnson pulled down 12 rebounds. The usually hot-shooting Cardinal shot just 27.7 percent from the field, including 4-of-17 from 3-point range.

The loss was Stanford's first regular-season nonconference loss to an unranked team since losing at St. Mary's on Nov. 17, 2000.

"They're extremely aggressive, and they knocked down some big shots," Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said of UTC following the game. "Especially their 3-point shooting was excellent. I think our team can get better from playing here.

"I think we had a lot of shots that we have to make if you want play and compete at this level. Our starting post players (Kaylee Johnson and Erica McCall) can't go 3-for-8 and 2-for-10. ... (UTC) did get to the free-throw line more than we did, but I think we had a lot of opportunities and we didn't take advantage of them."

The Mocs (7-3) have won 43 of their last 44 games at home, so their current three-game win streak isn't surprising until you consider that two of those wins are over Stanford and Tennessee, teams that were ranked in The Associated Press Top 10 when they visited Chattanooga and are considered among the elite programs in women's college basketball.

"I wouldn't say they did anything that surprised us, and we prepared for them because we respected them," said Stanford senior Erica Payne, who had six points and four rebounds. "I think a lot of it falls on us. I think we missed a lot opportunities and didn't make some of the plays that were available to us.

"And I have to give Chattanooga credit. They were diving on the floor for loose balls and getting a lot of them, and those are opportunities right there."

After falling behind 8-2 to open the game, UTC made its first run of the night and took its first lead at 11-10 on a 3-pointer by Shumpert. Another 3-pointer by Destiny Bramblett with 9:06 in the half gave the Mocs a 14-12 lead, and they never trailed again.

UTC led 29-28 at halftime with Johnson's 10 points leading the way followed by nine for Shumpert, who finished the game with five 3-point shots on 5-of-10 shooting from the field. The Mocs shot 37.5 percent from 3-point range.

"We just try to take any opportunity we can," said Johnson, who was 4-of-8 from the field including a pair of 3-pointers. "If there's anything in the post we're going to get there, and if there are shots outside we're going to take those shots. We work on both in practice, so that we will be efficient in the game."

In the second half, UTC used an 8-2 run capped by a jumper by Keiana Gilbert to take a 44-34 lead with 11:26 remaining in the game. Gilbert's shot would be the last field goal the Mocs would make, but smart defensive play and an 11-0f-13 night at the free-throw line kept Stanford from reclaiming the lead.

"We didn't do silly things or stupid things," Foster said. "We didn't commit silly fouls, we didn't turn the ball over and we didn't let us not making shots effect us in a negative fashion. We just kept playing and made some foul shots when we had to."

Stanford whittled down the deficit in the final minutes, getting within three points with 2:10 remaining on a layup and free throw by Karlie Samuelson and again with two free throws by her older sister Bonnie Samuelson to make score 49-46 with 36 seconds remaining.

But the Mocs never lost their composure, used solid defense and sealed the win when Shumpert and senior Ka'Vonne Towns combined to make five free throws in the final 30 seconds.

"Defense meant a lot," Johnson said. "Throughout the entire game, defense meant everything. It kind of gave us our momentum. Especially in the last couple of minutes it was very important for us to contest everything they gave, so defense really kept us in the game."

"I'm very happy. A win is always great. I hate to lose, so anytime I can get a 'W' I'm excited."

Contact Jim Tanner at jtanner@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6478. Follow him at twitter.com/JFTanner.

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