Home, sweet home.
After five straight away games, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball team put on a show for 1,722 fans Saturday afternoon in their Southern Conference home opener with an 83-52 win over Western Carolina.
That extended their winning streak to 11 games.
"We were glad to be back at home," sophomore guard Chelsey Shumpert said. "I think it's really good that we came back strong with a lot of intensity. The energy was really high, and we just had momentum throughout game."
Shumpert led the offense with 15 points and a career-best nine assists. Four other UTC players scored in double figures, and every active player on the roster scored in the win.
Keiana Gilbert scored 14 points, Jasmine Joyner 12, Moses Johnson 11 and Alicia "Red" Payne 10 to give UTC (15-3, 3-0) five players in double figures for the first time since beating Alabama 72-58 on Dec. 12, 2012.
Western Carolina (8-10, 0-3) was led by Justin Taylor with 13 points.
UTC coach Jim Foster didn't put as much stock in the Mocs' return to McKenzie Arena as his players did.
"You have to win a lot of games on the road, and I don't know that we could ever have more energy than we had the last nine minutes (of Monday's 47-40 win) at Furman," he said. "I think if the truth be known, this team's got a lot of energy wherever we are -- home, away or neutral -- and that's a good thing."
As usual, the Mocs used aggressive defense to take control, turning turnovers into points to jump out to a 21-6 lead that became 47-28 by halftime. In the second half, UTC continued to make shots and led by as many as 36 points.
The Mocs shot 54 percent from the field to score their most points in a game this season. And they pressured the Catamounts for 12 steals -- including nine in the first half -- and scored 20 points off 18 WCU turnovers.
"I think the steals really gave us momentum," Shumpert said.
Despite the defensive pressure, UTC lived up to its reputation as the lowest-fouling team in NCAA Division I by committing only nine fouls in the game. Senior Ka'Vonne Towns had four of UTC's 12 steals without committing a foul, and she has accumulated 15 steals in the Mocs' past four games.
"We really work on moving our feet and keeping our hands off the ball since they are calling fouls now with the double-touch," Towns said. "So we work on moving our feet more to make their offense work harder."
The Mocs' ball movement led to 22 assists, led by Shumpert's nine.
"I don't really think about it," Shumpert said of how she runs the offense. "I just play and compete as best I can and try to get the rest of the team involved. I think when we work together we're better as a group, so that's what I try to do."
Joyner continued her strong work in the post, grabbing eight rebounds and blocking five shots to improve her school season record to 77 blocks in 18 games. In addition, Payne had three blocks and UTC outrebounded the Catamounts 33-26 and outscored them 42-24 in the paint.
Foster was pleased with his team's performance, especially defensively, and balance on offense.
"I look at the stat sheet and I see that we played very well with (Joyner) only playing 21 minutes," he said. "A lot of our season, she had to be on the floor for us to be successful.
"Destiny (Bramblett) gives us another dimension when she come in at that position, and she filled that today. Her stat sheet looks pretty good."
UTC visits UNC Greensboro at 7 p.m. Monday but then will have three games at McKenzie Arena starting Saturday against Furman.
Contact Jim Tanner at email@example.com or 423-757-6478. Follow him at twitter.com/JFTanner.