UTC head coach Jim Foster directs his team from the sidelines. The University of North Carolina Greensboro Trojans visited the University of Tennessee Chattanooga Mocs in Southern Conference women's basketball action at McKenzie Arena on January 4, 2018.

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Mercer is formidable roadblock for Jim Foster's 900th win

There will come a time when University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball coach Jim Foster will take a moment to reflect on his accomplishments.

But with the seventh-ranked mid-major program in the country facing his team this afternoon, now's not the time.

With Foster's next win, the 2013 Women's Basketball Hall of Fame inductee will become the eighth women's coach in NCAA history to reach 900 for his college career. Should that win come today, it would be well earned, as his Mocs meet Mercer at 2 p.m. in the first game of a Southern Conference College doubleheader at McKenzie Arena.

The UTC men, who snapped an eight-game losing streak Wednesday with a win over Samford, host Virginia Military Institute at 5. The traveling acrobatic act ZOOperstars! will perform at halftime of both games.

The Mercer women (19-2, 6-0) have won their last 16 games. Foster's Mocs are 12-7, 4-2 in the conference.

NCAA women’s basketball coaches’ all-time wins:

1. Pat Summitt, Tennessee (1974-2012) – 1,098

2. Tara VanDerveer, Idaho (1978-80), Ohio State (1980-85), Stanford (1985-present) — 1,024

3. Geno Auriemma, Connecticut (1985-present) – 1,010

4. Sylvia Hatchell, Francis Marion (1976-86), North Carolina (1986- present) – 1,004

5. Barbara Stevens, Clark (1978-83), UMass (1983-86), Bentley (1986- present) — 1,001

6. C. Vivian Stringer, Cheyney State (1971-83), Iowa (1983-85), Rutgers (1995-present) — 994

7. Jody Conradt, Sam Houston State (1969-73), Texas-Arlington (1973-76), Texas (1976-2007) – 900

8. Jim Foster, St. Joseph’s (1979-91), Vanderbilt (1992-2002), Ohio State (2003-13), UTC (2013-present) — 899


Foster has a career 899-341 record, with 116 of the wins for UTC after Thursday's 68-58 defeat of Samford. He directed 248 victories at St. Joseph's, 256 at Vanderbilt and 279 at Ohio State, becoming one of two coaches in NCAA history (Rutgers' C. Vivian Stringer being the other) to win at least 200 games at each of three schools.

With the Mocs having won four consecutive SoCon championships, Foster is the only coach to take four different schools to the NCAA tournament and be ranked in The Associated Press Top 25.

But if you're looking for him to say anything about any of that, good luck.

Redshirt senior Aryanna Gilbert was a true freshman on the 2013-14 team that got Foster to 800 with a 63-50 win over Samford on Jan. 25, 2014. She started that game and had two points and a steal in 18 minutes.

"It amazes me," Gilbert said after Thursday's overtime win over the same program. "Coach Foster is an awesome coach. He isn't one that toots his own horn, but it's really an amazing accomplishment."

Foster has been a head coach at the college level for 40 seasons now, but it was a lesson he learned during his tenure at Vanderbilt that has stuck with him the most.

"There was one time I stood up too fast," Foster said Thursday. "When I did, the whole world passed in front of me and I almost passed out. I just made two decisions: I'm not going to crouch anymore, and I'm not going to coach from a squat and stand up quickly.

"The feeling at that moment was such that I said, 'You know what? I don't want to experience that again.' I started coaching a little bit differently."

The Mocs are 5-1 against Mercer's Bears over the past two seasons, including victories in the last two SoCon tournament championship games. Last season's final came down to a last-second shot by Mercer's Linnea Rosendal that bounced off every area of the rim before falling off, sealing UTC's 61-59 win and fifth consecutive league title.

Mercer returned all five starters and has 10 seniors and juniors on this season's roster, led by two-time league player of the year Kahlia Lawrence, who is averaging 19.6 points per game, and junior KeKe Calloway, averaging 18.1. Point guard Sydni Means has seven games with at least 10 assists and in six league games has 60 assists to only nine turnovers.

So, no, Foster is not currently in a place to reflect on any accomplishments.

"If you come to my house, you have no idea what I do for a living," Foster said. "I have a life outside of basketball. I don't think in (legacy) terms. Maybe someday when I'm sitting with a nice glass of Cabernet and good company, I'll reflect on it a little bit, but right now we're playing as good of a team as we have all year, so I'm not thinking about anything but how good Mercer is and what we can do to play with them."

Contact Gene Henley at Follow him on Twitter @genehenleytfp.