After eight games in the first 16 days to start the season, maybe the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball program needed a bit of a break.
After the Mocs' last game on Dec. 21, UTC received an eight-day rest in between games, time that gave the coaching staff and the team a chance to recalibrate before the Southern Conference season starts on Jan. 9.
But standing in between was a game Tuesday against North Alabama, the final non-conference matchup before the Mocs host East Tennessee State next week.
And — probably not coincidentally — UTC played Tuesday's game against the Lions with more energy, more effort. They made shots, took care of the ball and finished the first part of the schedule with a 77-64 victory on the road to improve to 5-4 on the year.
It's the Mocs' third straight win and fourth in five games.
Of all the positive stats, perhaps none pop off the page more than 17 UTC turnovers, a season low. That number will need to continue to decrease, but it's certainly a step in the right direction — especially considering UNA likes to pressure and create havoc defensively.
Eboni Williams continued her solid play as of late, with 17 points, 12 rebounds and three steals. But she had help, as UTC shot 49% from the field. Dena Jarrells had 13 points, four rebounds and four assists; Abbey Cornelius had 12 points, six rebounds, four assists and a pair of blocks.
Williams continues to be the catalyst for the Mocs with her effort on both ends. Against the Lions, she was scoring, facilitating offense, grabbing rebounds and even taking charges. She plays with effort and passion — although that backfired Tuesday as she received a technical for yelling "Let's go!" at UNA's Jaila Roberts after being fouled in the second half — and that's become contagious for the team.
We've already mentioned the 17 turnovers, but more importantly was the fact that the Mocs only had four miscues in the second half. It's important because the shots weren't falling in the second half, but not turning the ball over gave the Mocs opportunities to crash the offensive boards and create additional opportunities, which led to an 11-for-12 effort from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter, one won by UTC 24-16.
The Mocs only led 53-48 after three quarters, and head coach Katie Burrows started off the fourth quarter with guards Sigrun Olafsdottir, Amaria Pugh and Morgan Hill; and forwards Williams and Cornelius. That unit outscored UNA 20-10 over the following 6:03 of game time, stretching the lead to 15 points with 3:56 remaining.
The non-conference schedule has given the Mocs nine opportunities to figure out some things. Some of those things — the turnovers namely — they haven't liked, but may be in the process of fixing. Others, such as the emergence of Williams as a go-to option or the team's overall ability to score the basketball, have been welcome revelations. A season ago, the team was 1-13 before going on a run in the SoCon. This year's team has always been better, and the results are (slowly) starting to show.
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @genehenley3.