Early foul trouble in the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball team's first two games this season prevented coach Katie Burrows from showcasing the Mocs' depth and played a part in the 20-point losses.
There was no early foul trouble Friday against Tennessee Tech, so the rotations could be what Burrows wanted them to be. And the result — after a slow start — was a win.
The Mocs received 37 points from their bench in a 76-65 victory at McKenzie Arena. Twelve of those bench points came from sophomore guard Brooke Hampel, while Dena Jarrells and Ruona Uwusiaba had seven each and Morgan Hill added six. Eboni Williams — who had first-half foul trouble in the team's losses to the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Troy — led the Mocs with 14 points, while Bria Dial added 10.
The Mocs dominated the second and third quarters, outscoring the Golden Eagles 49-22. That was a switch from the first quarter, when Tech had built a 14-3 advantage in its first action of the season.
"We just had to trust each other and trust what we can do in our offense will get us good looks," Burrows said. "Then at halftime, we talked about how the first five minutes (of the third quarter) are critical. If you can take care of that, you can then build on the lead."
Junior forward Abbey Cornelius, who did battle foul trouble, still led the Mocs in rebounds with seven in 17 minutes.
Tech's Kesha Brady had 26 points and eight rebounds, and Mackenzie Coleman scored 17 points.
Hampel played 22 minutes and was a plus-21 in her time. Everything she did was based off effort and hustle, from the five offensive rebounds to the easy baskets just from sprinting down the court and making herself available. Burrows said afterward that "Brooke Hampel realized who she is with the UTC Mocs."
The Mocs have had some struggles playing a 40-minute game this season, and while they weren't great at the beginning or at the end, their defense played gave them some wiggle room. Tech shot 5-for-30 in the second and third quarters, while the Mocs made 18 of 31 shots and five 3-pointers to build the healthy advantage.
The Mocs needed a spark early, and Burrows turned to her bench. First it was Uwusiaba, then Hill and 2020 Bradley Central graduate Anna Walker, then Jarrells and Hampel. Kallie Searcy subbed for Uwusiaba later. It was the bench that gave the jolt to start a 15-0 run that helped the Mocs assume control.
"When we come in off the bench, we want to be effective and help our team in what we do, what we're good at. Picking up the energy is the key to coming off the bench, and we all really do pride ourselves in that." — Hampel on the reserves' mentality
"Almost every person on our team got a chance to score, and that's going to be really dangerous for any team because you don't know who's going to be hot that game." — Williams on the Mocs' depth
The Mocs appeared to learn from those first two contests. Sure, there was the slow start Friday, but once UTC got going, it was overwhelming against a pretty talented Tech team. Sunday's 2 p.m. home game against Vanderbilt will obviously be another tough test, but that's what the nonconference schedule is for: learning. If the Mocs can build off this performance with another solid one against the Commodores, win or lose, they'll be in even better shape when Southern Conference play starts next month.