UTC women's basketball team to face Syracuse

photo UTC women's basketball players Kavonne Towns, left, Ashlen Dewart, back center, and Alicia Payne react to their draw during the NCAA tournament selection show Monday at Jefferson's restaurant. The Mocs drew a No. 11 seed and will play Saturday against Syracuse at Lexington, Ky.
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The reaction was a mixture of excitement and relief.

Included in the last region highlighted on the selection show Monday evening, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball team received an 11 seed for the NCAA tournament and drew Syracuse in the first round. UTC (29-3) will play the Orange (27-9) at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in Lexington, Ky. The other game pits 3 seed Kentucky against Wright State at 11 a.m.

Wright State is coached by former UTC assistant coach Mike Bradbury, an East Ridge High School graduate.

Most projections had the Mocs as a 12 seed, so there was a large cheer from the team and the crowd that had gathered at Jefferson's Restaurant when "Chattanooga" finally came across the screen.

"This time of year, you're going to play a good team, regardless of your seed, because all of the bad teams are at home," UTC coach Jim Foster said. "I like the geography of where we're going, and I think we're going to have a good crowd in attendance."

Foster has experience coaching against Syracuse, which much like the Orange men plays a lot of zone defense, but for the Mocs players, it will be a new experience against a new team.

"I think we got a great draw," Southern Conference player of the year Taylor Hall said. "I'm from Kentucky, so I like that the game is going to be close to us. We had to wait for a while to see our name called, but the build-up was pretty exciting and the wait was worth it. We're ready to focus on the next step."

That step gives the Mocs a chance to wash out the bad tastes in their mouths from last season's 73-59 first-round loss to Nebraska. UTC, which is 1-11 all-time in NCAA tournaments, led 47-38 with 15:49 remaining in that game but was outscored 35-12 the rest of the way.

"I think we can benefit from last year," senior guard Alex Black said. "We were to the point where we could taste the win, but we just couldn't finish."

The Tennessee women are a 1 seed and drew Northwestern State in the first round. The Lady Vols (27-5) will play Saturday at 4 in Knoxville.

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.