The final chapter of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball team's first season under head coach Shawn Poppie came to a close Friday in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
The Mocs, a No. 16 seed after winning the Southern Conference tourney to make it to March Madness for the first time since 2017, lost 58-33 at No. 1 seed Virginia Tech as Poppie returned to Blacksburg, where he was an assistant for six seasons before taking over at UTC last spring.
The Hokies (28-4), the Atlantic Coast Conference tourney champions who have won 12 straight games dating to late January, advanced to a second-round matchup Sunday against either No. 8 Southern California or No. 9 South Dakota State, which met in Friday's second game in Blacksburg.
There were things the Mocs (20-13) did well against Virginia Tech, primarily on the defensive end of the court. But one thing they struggled at was slowing down Hokies point guard Georgia Amoore, who finished 5-for-8 from 3-point range and had a game-high 22 points.
Offensively, the Mocs could never get on track. UTC senior Yazz Wazeerud-Din and freshman Raven Thompson each had 10 points, but Wazeerud-Din was 4-for-19 from the field and 1-for-11 from 3-point range, and Thompson was 5-for-14 from the field as nobody on the team was able to find consistent gaps to drive against a much bigger opponent.
The Mocs shot 29% (14-for-49) from the field and were just 4-for-18 from 3-point range.
"They did a really good job, and they've been doing that all year," Poppie said on the postgame radio broadcast. "We knew we had our hands full, were going to have to make some shots, and we did not make shots. They're a really good basketball team. I thought we controlled the game in the sense of the pace we wanted to, but if you're going to play at that pace, you're going to have to make some shots.
"I thought defensively, we were pretty solid, very solid, especially considering how bad our offense was. Sometimes it's hard to go down there and get a stop and focus, and we did have a handful of those where we just had brain farts in the sense of not executing the scout, which gave them a couple."
The Mocs missed their first four shots, but they hit three straight with a driving layup by Thompson sandwiched in between a pair of 3s by sophomore Karsen Murphy, who got some early playing time after two quick fouls on senior Abbey Cornelius. But after Murphy's second 3, which cut the Hokies' lead to 9-8, the Mocs missed eight consecutive shots, which allowed the home team to go on a 17-0 run and assume control of the game.
Elizabeth Kitley and Kayana Traylor each had 12 points for the Hokies, while Taylor Soule added 10 before a fourth-quarter injury. Kitley, who stands 6-foot-6, had 14 rebounds and D'Asia Gregg, who's 6-2, had 11.
Addie Porter led the Mocs with nine rebounds, and Thompson had eight, but UTC had just 22 total as Virginia Tech finished with 38.
UTC was making its 16th NCAA tourney appearance, but the program is still seeking its second win overall in the event. In 2007, the 10th-seeded Mocs beat No. 7 seed Rutgers 74-69; Friday's loss was their 10th consecutive in a first-round game.
It was the UTC finale for Cornelius, Wazeerud-Din and walk-on Audrey Canter.
"I'm so proud of this team," Poppie said. "They fought their tails off for us, and we just didn't have quite enough tonight, but that's a really good Virginia Tech team. I want us to enjoy this week. Enjoy the taste in our mouths that happened all week. Obviously it's not how we wanted to finish, but this is what some people become, 'We made it, we're fine,' or some, they want to get back to here and push this thing even further, so we've got to make sure we springboard off this.
"This year, this run, which I know this group well, we've got some fighters in there returning. I'm proud of our seniors for giving everything they did for us, and it's time to capitalize on the movement."
Compiled by Gene Henley. Contact him at email@example.com.