When Eboni Williams first arrived on the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga campus in 2019, she was told that she needed to slow down.
But the problem is, that's not entirely possible. The 6-foot-2 Williams, now a junior on the roster, plays with a motor that's quite unrivaled. It's also true that sometimes the emotion and energy she plays with gets her in trouble, as was the case when she was assessed a technical foul for yelling "Let's Go!!!" at a North Alabama player when Williams was fouled going up for a shot after grabbing an offensive rebound in the Mocs' 77-64 win on Dec. 29.
It was probably the case in the team's first two games — losses against Alabama-Birmingham and Troy — as Williams played a combined 28 minutes while battling foul trouble. Things didn't get much better in the third game, a win over Tennessee Tech, as she fouled out for a second time in 23 minutes.
"She struggled the first couple of games. Everybody did, but that was a result of not being together for weeks. She just wanted it so badly," UTC head coach Katie Burrows said after Friday's practice. "It was almost forced, and then she couldn't stay on the court, so her numbers suffered and our numbers suffered."
The Mocs didn't start their season until Dec. 6 due to COVID-19 concerns within the program.
In the six games since, Williams has started to realize her value. She's averaged 17.7 points and 8.8 rebounds, and has been named Southern Conference Player of the Week on two consecutive occasions, one mostly based off a 30-point, 10-rebound effort in an overtime win over Georgia Southern and the other after a 17-point, 12-rebounds performance in the team's last game against UNA.
But she's also starting to learn how to pick her spots. She doesn't always have to go 100 mph.
"I think it's all about timing, and where we are in the game," she said. "If we're up and I'm moving too fast and we're still being productive, then that's a good time. But if we're getting kind of low, I try to bring some type of energy by attacking the basket so someone else can get open and I can get other people involved."
The Mocs have won five of their last seven since an 0-2 start, and heading into Saturday's SoCon opener at home against East Tennessee State looking like a far better team than last season, when UTC was 1-13 out of conference. That team did eventually turn it around and claim a share of the conference championship, but there's a togetherness in this season's version that appeared to be lacking last year.
Burrows called it "great team chemistry" and spoke about how the players are starting to understand their roles. Williams' aggressiveness on both ends of the floor, Bria Dial's 3-point shooting, the inside presence of Abbey Cornelius and the ball-handling of guards Sigrun Olafsdottir, Amaria Pugh and Dena Jarrells have been a recipe for much of the team's success this season.
"We have a lot of different scorers this year. It could be anybody any day," Williams said. "That's the difference (from last year to this) everybody wants to win and we have the same goals in common — to win a championship."
Other Mocs notes ...
The men's basketball team (10-2, 1-2) will be in Charleston, S.C., with a game against The Citadel (7-0, 0-0) — which hasn't played since Dec. 22 — at McAlister Fieldhouse at 1 SaturdayUTC's wrestling team has a four-way match set for Sunday against Oklahoma State, Oregon State and Little Rock at historic Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, OklahomaUTC's football and volleyball teams are set to report back to campus next week. The Mocs volleyball program hosts North Alabama in its first match of the season on Jan. 22, while the football program starts preparation for its season opener on Feb. 20 against Virginia Military Institute. The game is currently scheduled to be played at Finley Stadium.
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @genehenley3.