UTC women find their shot, step up in third quarter to sweep ETSU

Staff photo by Olivia Ross / UTC's Raven Thompson heads toward the net while guarded by ETSU's Jakhyia Davis (24) and Jiselle Thomas during Saturday's SoCon game at McKenzie Arena.

Third quarters have been a problem at times this season for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball team, especially in Southern Conference games.

The Mocs had been outscored by a combined 14 points in that period through their first seven league games, which made a fast start to the second half a point of emphasis during intermission against East Tennessee State University on Saturday afternoon.

That message was heard as the Mocs came out firing for the first few minutes, only the Buccaneers were doing the same thing: making shots. The defense finally settled in for UTC, the result was a 24-17 quarter for a comfortable advantage, and the Mocs would not seriously be threatened again in a wire-to-wire 73-62 win at McKenzie Arena to sweep the season series.

The Mocs (13-10, 5-3) are on the road for their next two games, facing Mercer (10-12, 6-3) at 7 p.m. Thursday and Samford (13-11, 7-2) two days later. Samford first hosts ETSU (17-7, 4-4) on Thursday.

All five UTC starters scored in double figures Saturday as the Mocs shot 50% from the field for the second time all season, the first since making 54% of their attempts in a 14-point win at Georgia State on Nov. 30. Raven Thompson had 19 points and five assists, Yazz Wazeerud-Din had 16 points, Addie Porter had 13 points, eight rebounds and four assists, while Abbey Cornelius and Sigrun Olafsdottir finished with 10 points each.

Porter said it was "on the team's mind to throw the first punch" in the third quarter against the Bucs, who lost 53-50 to UTC on Jan. 5 in Johnson City but outscored UTC 16-9 in the fourth quarter of that SoCon opener.

"We executed some stuff to Raven in the first half because we thought we had the advantage down there," UTC coach Shawn Poppie said after Saturday's win. "Then the game got easier in the third quarter because we had executed to start the game, then you could play little wrinkles out of that. But you have to step up and make shots so you can get to the next thing, so I'm super pleased by how we executed."

It looked a lot better than the Mocs' performance in their previous game a week earlier, a stunning home loss to Western Carolina, which is now 2-7 in league play and ahead of only Furman (1-7) in the standings. Samford, Wofford and Mercer are currently listed ahead of the Mocs, who lost their first meeting of the season with each of the first two but beat the Bears in overtime at McKenzie, setting up the possibility of a sweep for UTC on Thursday in Macon, Georgia.

"Last week, we talked about playing hard, no matter what," Porter said. "Last week, shots weren't falling and that made us not play as hard and not give as much effort, energy, all of that. We know those types of things have to be constant for us, whether the shots are going in or not. It just so happened that our shots were falling today, but the energy and effort has to be constant for us, no matter what."

ETSU, which had four scorers in double figures — Jiselle Thomas (19), Jakhyia Davis (15), Nevaeh Brown (13) and Kendall Folley (10) — is behind the Mocs in the standings but ahead of UNC Greensboro (3-6), Western Carolina and Furman.

Compiled by Gene Henley. Contact him at ghenley@timesfreepress.com.