UTC women's basketball preview series: Meet the shooters

Staff file photo / Chattanooga women's basketball coach Katie Burrows shouts to players during the Mocs' home SoCon basketball game against the Mercer Bears at McKenzie Arena on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the second of a three-part series dissecting the 2019-20 UTC women's basketball team. Tuesday we'll break down the shooters, and Wednesday the inside threats.

There were several times last season when University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball coach Katie Burrows lamented the fact that it often was hard for her team to score consistently.

Despite a brutal nonconference schedule, the team's non-shooting statistics - rebounding, steals, assists, turnovers and blocked shots - measured up well. However, the Mocs shot under 40% for the season and just over 30% from 3-point range.

In 13 of their 17 losses, the Mocs were held under 60 points.

"We do need to find ways to score easier baskets, I would say," Burrows said follow a recent practice. "I think we have a capable group, with the chance for shooting to be a strength."

The plan, as the Mocs prepare to open the season at Belmont on Wednesday, is to get more movement offensively and to use senior Lakelyn Bouldin at shooting guard more after she made 54 3-pointers a year ago despite handling most of the point guard duties.

The three position, then, becomes a very important one on the offensive end. Junior Bria Dial and, when she returns from injury, sophomore Morgan Hill, will handle the spot. Each had nice moments a year ago, most notably defensively, but they combined to average just nine points and hit 44 3s.

"Bria is a stable player for us," Burrows said. "Even when she's not shooting very well, she's going to provide a lot on the defensive end. She causes problems on the defensive end with her length. She gets in the passing lanes and she can sneak some rebounds out as well.

"Morgan hopefully is just a couple more weeks away, but when she's back will provide more depth for us. She can shoot the 3 and she can get to the basket. She's also a very smart player. Defensively, she's just solid and she knows where to be."

The 6-foot Dial, a SoCon all-freshman-team selection in 2017-18, started 18 games as a sophomore and had 23 steals, 19 blocked shots and 29 3s. With Brooke Burns and Arianne Whitaker transferring out after starting a combined 42 games, Dial is prepared for a bigger role, whatever that may be.

If last week's exhibition win over Lee University is any indication, she will have plenty of time to figure it out.

"I'm still trying to figure my role out right now," said Dial, who played a team-high 37 minutes against Lee and hit three 3s in scoring 13 points. "Maybe I can be a leader more than I have been. Last year I didn't look to score as much, but the Lee game built up my confidence and showed me I can do it."

The Mocs also have the versatility, especially when Hill returns, to mix and match lineups. Reigning SoCon freshman of the year Eboni Williams, slated to start at the four position, can easily move to the three, with Abbey Cornelius moving from the five to the four without any defensive fall-off.

"This is just a new team. We can all do a lot of different things, and we work well together," Dial replied when asked to describe the biggest difference in the Mocs this year.

"We need to play faster, and the fact that we're all interchangeable will help. We can all guard on the perimeter, which could speed teams up. Also, this year I feel like everybody is here for the same goal, to win. Whenever you have better chemistry, you are going to work and mesh better together on the court."

Contact Lindsey Young at [email protected] or at 423-757-6296. Follow him on Twitter @youngsports22.