The game that almost didn't start wound up having a good finish for coach Katie Burrows and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball team Thursday night.
The Mocs made the trip up to Johnson City for their regular-season finale against rival East Tennessee State University, but a member of the team's traveling party had shown coronavirus-like symptoms. That delayed tip-off for 40 minutes even though, according to the TV broadcast, the person had tested negative for the virus both Wednesday and Thursday.
The schools had agreed to play, but they had to get clearance from the Southern Conference. On top of that, one of the three game officials wasn't comfortable with the situation, so the teams had to get clearance from the SoCon to play with two officials, which was ultimately granted.
Suddenly, ETSU's quick start — the Bucs built an eight-point lead in the second quarter — became the biggest hurdle, but the Mocs eventually built a 23-point lead before cruising to a 65-54 win in their final game before the league tournament, which is set for March 4-7 in Asheville, North Carolina.
Dena Jarrells had another solid performance off the bench for the Mocs (14-9, 9-5), scoring a game-high 17 points. Bria Dial followed up a scoreless Sunday performance against UNC Greensboro with 15 points against the Buccaneers, while Abbey Cornelius had 10 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two blocks.
Carly Hooks scored 16 points to lead ETSU (3-14, 1-9).
Jarrells gets the nod because she was so huge in getting the momentum to swing back in UTC's favor after such a slow start.
The Mocs forced 21 ETSU turnovers, turning those miscues into 24 points. They won that battle by 11 points in a game they won by — 11.
The Mocs allowed just one field goal in the final 6:34 of the first half, and finished the second quarter on a 15-2 run to assume control of the game.
The so-called first season is over for the Mocs. As the No. 3 seed for the SoCon tournament, UTC will face either UNC Greensboro or Furman, both teams the Mocs split with during the regular season. UTC is capable of beating anyone in the league but equally capable of losing. In their seven SoCon regular-season series, the Mocs pulled off two sweeps, of Western Carolina and ETSU, the bottom two teams in the league. They also beat every SoCon team at least once, though, and have as good of a chance as anyone next week in Asheville.