University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball coach Jim Foster summarized his team's 65-58 loss to East Tennessee State University in one sentence.
"In the first five minutes and the last five minutes, we were a bad basketball team," he said.
Still, it was the final portion that proved to be the difference Friday night in Johnson City, where the Mocs went without a field goal for the final 6:33 and were outscored 10-3 down the stretch. The Buccaneers (10-8, 3-0 Southern Conference), led by guards Tianna Tarter and Ericka Haynes-Overton, snapped a 10-game losing streak in the series.
Tarter, a senior, finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds and four assists. Haynes-Overton, a freshman, had a team-high 21 points on 9-for-11 shooting while adding seven steals.
Keiana Gilbert had a game-high 22 points and six rebounds for the Mocs (11-6, 2-1). Lakelyn Bouldin finished with 15 points, while Arianne Whitaker added 10 points and six rebounds. Aryanna Gilbert, the team's leading scorer entering Friday's contest with an average of 14 points per game this season, was 3-for-13 from the floor and finished with eight points. She led the team in rebounds with eight.
Molly Melton, who hadn't been in a game since injuring a knee Dec. 17, played 36 minutes and finished with six assists and four rebounds.
Haynes-Overton had 13 points and six steals in the first quarter alone as ETSU built a 23-14 lead.
The Mocs were able to slow the game down after that, though, and as they did, they were able to find open shots. Keiana Gilbert, Bouldin and Whitaker combined for the team's first 34 points as the Mocs erased their early deficit. UTC led 34-33 after a three-point play by Keiana Gilbert with 39 seconds left in the first half, then took a four-point lead into the locker room after Aryanna Gilbert nailed a 3-pointer with three seconds on the clock.
The Mocs led by six during the third quarter and went ahead 57-55 on a layup by Keiana Gilbert with 6:33 to play, but their only scoring the rest of the way came on a free throw by Aryanna Gilbert. ETSU took the lead for good on a shot by Haynes-Overton with 5:07 to play
The Bucs finished with 17 offensive rebounds and won all of the hustle stats - they scored 10 more fast-break points (18-8), five more second-chance points (13-8) and had 23 points off 17 UTC turnovers. Nine of the Bucs' second-chance points came in the final period.
"We told them exactly what would be open, and when we took our time, they were wide open," Foster said. "We rebounded well, but we did not do a good job when we needed to keep them away from second shots.
"When we needed to get a stop, our initial defense was decent and then they get an offensive rebound. You can't win games like that."
Contact Gene Henley at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @genehenleytfp.