Twenty months between college basketball games was more than enough for Queen Alford.
Friday night the redshirt junior for the 25th-ranked University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's team returned to the court for the first time since March 11, 2014, when she was finishing her sophomore season at Jacksonville University.
"It felt really good," Alford said after the Mocs' 68-53 win over McNeese State. "I was nervous the first two scrimmages, so I'm happy we got to play those because today all jitters were gone. It felt really good, and I think it's just going to get better."
In her first action with UTC, Alford made an impact. She scored eight points on 3-of-4 field-goal shooting and grabbed four rebounds in 16 minutes of playing time in the season-opening win. She was active on defense with a pair of steals and was on the floor battling for loose balls. Her solid debut bodes well heading into today's 2 p.m. home nonconference game against Butler.
"She did a lot of good things," UTC coach Jim Foster said Friday night. "It will take her some time to work herself into game shape after not playing. That stuff takes a little time, but every time she goes out there she'll get a little bit better. I thought she did a pretty good job tonight."
Alford was successful in her two seasons at Jacksonville — earning Atlantic Sun Freshman of the Year honors and averaging more than 13 points per game in her sophomore season — but she is happy with her decision to transfer closer to her home in Decatur, Ga.
"I'm very happy that I'm here," she said. "Last year because I sat out I think I got a lot closer to my teammates, and I think that's something that makes you feel like you're wanted and it's a family-type atmosphere.
"Then when I was out playing tonight, there was still that family atmosphere, and that's just fun."
As Alford shakes the rust off her game, she'll be counted on to contribute more as the Mocs look to build on last season's success.
"It's good have Queen out there as well, because she's going to be a key player," junior post star Jasmine Joyner said. "She's a very smart player. She's just got to adjust after not playing for a year, and she's getting her groove back into it."
UTC won 76-47 win over Butler last season in Indianapolis, but the Bulldogs opened this season Friday with a 72-53 win over Valparaiso. The Mocs can't afford to look past today's game, and Foster expects to see a different Butler team at McKenzie Arena.
"They were without three or four of their players last year, as I recall," he said. "One or two had been suspended for something, and one or two were injured. So I expect them to be a little bit different."
Joyner knows there is room for improvement, and she thinks the Mocs need to step up their game on the defensive end.
"I feel like we let (McNeese State) shoot too many 3s, so we've got to tighten up on that," she said. "On offense we've got to reverse the ball and drive more. I feel like we could have gotten in the lane more often.
"But mostly it's just our defense where we have to tighten up and get back on defense. They can't have got some layups on our back."
Contact Jim Tanner at JFTanner@bellsouth.net. Follow him at twitter.com/JFTanner.