Updated with more information at 6:20 p.m. on Feb. 8, 2020.
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball team suffered through a dreadful second quarter, and the Mocs' fourth-quarter rally fell short in a 61-53 Southern Conference loss to Western Carolina on Saturday afternoon at McKenzie Arena.
"When you're not shooting the ball well, you can't have blown coverages," UTC coach Katie Burrows said. "I feel like we've got a bunch of folks who were trying to take it on their shoulders and trying to turn things around themselves. But we've got to stay the course and trust the process and continue to play together. We did not share the ball well today."
The loss was the Mocs' first to Western Carolina since Feb. 22, 2010, snapping a 21-game UTC winning streak, and it was the Catamounts' first victory at McKenzie since Feb. 21, 2009.
The Mocs, coming off back-to-back wins for the first time this season, lost the momentum in the league standings they had generated with the victories at East Tennessee State and against UNC Greensboro.
UTC (6-17, 5-4) was led in scoring Saturday by Bria Dial with 20 points, and Eboni Williams added 12 points and seven rebounds.
Western Carolina (5-19, 2-7) was led by 14 points from Tembre Moates, one of four Catamounts who scored in double figures.
The team traded runs during the first half. After falling behind 7-2, UTC used a 10-0 run to take a 12-7 lead in the first quarter. Western Carolina answered with a 11-0 run of its own to regain the lead, eventually pushing its advantage to 22-14 midway through the second quarter.
UTC's offense was almost nonexistent in that quarter as the Mocs were outscored 17-7 — their biggest deficit in the period was 15 points — to go into halftime down 30-19.
The Mocs fell behind by 18 during the third quarter, but three 3-pointers by Dial in the period helped them cut their deficit to 47-39 entering the fourth. That's when they turned it on, closing to within 55-53 with two minutes to play, but turnovers and missed shots ended their threat.
"My kids aren't going to quit; they never quit," Burrows said. "We just decided to amp it up a little bit too late. They really gave a great effort in the second half."
UTC is on the road for its next two games — Thursday at Furman and Saturday at Wofford — before closing its regular-season schedule with three home dates.
Dial's 20-point performance helped the Mocs make the game close at the end, but the real star was Western Carolina's Judith Matin Ruiz. The fifth-year senior gave the Mocs fits early as the Catamounts built their lead. Ruiz entered averaging 5.3 points per game this season, but she tallied 13 points, three rebounds and two steals in just more than 20 minutes before leaving with an apparent ankle injury with 7:58 remaining in the third quarter.
30.9% field-goal shooting for UTC. Two days after the Mocs shot almost 52% from the floor in their 74-59 win over UNCG, they struggled. The problem was most evident during the second quarter, when UTC shot just 2-for-11, but going 4-for-11 in the fourth doomed the late rally. The bright spot for UTC was free throws (13-of-15).
After the Mocs took the lead on a 10-0 run in the first quarter, Western Carolina answered with an 11-0 run of their own to reclaim the lead for good. The Catamounts extended their advantage, and the Mocs dug a hole they couldn't escape despite their late rally.
WHAT IT MEANS
The Mocs entered Saturday tied for second place in the SoCon standings, and losing to the last-place team in the league doesn't help their hopes for a high seed in the conference tournament next month. The two-game road swing against Furman and Wofford now means even more to the Mocs, who have only one road victory in SoCon play. However, with first-place Samford and Furman also suffering upset losses Saturday, the Mocs are still in the thick of things and have a chance to win the regular-season title if they close well.
Burrows on the loss: "(Western Carolina) wanted it more than we did. We came out and we lacked fire, we lacked energy. I don't have an answer for that. I'm not in their minds, and I'm not in their bodies. I asked them the question and challenged them a little bit. We come off playing so well like we did on Thursday for the whole first we were just glazed."
UTC sophomore forward Williams on the slow start: "I feel like they came out to play hard. They were the underdog and were hungry, and it showed. We realized we needed to get together because we were not on the same page and not communicating well. It was just communication — we just weren't talking at all."
Junior guard Dial on the Mocs moving forward from the loss: "We're better than this and better than how we're playing right now. I feel like we can't just dwell on this. The two teams that we will play (next), we can beat them because we have (at home). We can do it. We can think about this game because it's a hard loss, but we're not going to dwell on it."