The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball team limited its mistakes when it came to maintaining possession during Friday night's Southern Conference victory at Furman.
Sunday afternoon against the same opponent, the Mocs reverted back to what has been their norm this season, and despite a better defensive performance this time, instead of completing a series sweep of the Paladins, they had to settle for a split after losing 52-46.
After committing just 12 turnovers in their 68-56 win Friday in Greenville, South Carolina, the Mocs (7-5, 2-1) doubled that number — and the Paladins (5-7, 1-2) turned those 24 turnovers into as many points.
The Mocs have found ways to win games with 20 or more turnovers, with their record 3-2 in such games this season before Sunday, and despite having 20 through the first three quarters Sunday, the visitors had given themselves a chance to steal the win.
But even if they had found a way, it wouldn't solve the bigger problem in not taking care of the ball and valuing possessions.
While UTC's offense had a chance to shine in the series opener, the opportunities were more limited this time despite the Mocs' defensive improvements on the stat sheet: In addition to Furman scoring six fewer points than it did on Friday, the Paladins also shot worse than they had two days earlier, at 37.3% Sunday compared to 42%.
No, the Mocs' problems were on the other end of the court.
Junior forward Abbey Cornelius led UTC with 13 points and was joined in double figures by Eboni Williams (12) and Bria Dial (11). Williams had a game-high nine rebounds and three of UTC's 11 steals, with Sigrun Olafsdottir grabbing eight rebounds and Cornelius seven.
Dial, the Mocs' steadying force, shot just 1-for-5 from 3-point range and committed four turnovers, but her experience also helped her get into some passing lanes and force a pair of steals. She also had five rebounds.
If you're not going to shoot well, you better be active on the offensive boards. The Mocs were, grabbing 19 offensive rebounds, but they converted those opportunities into just nine points.
Two free throws by Williams cut Furman's lead to 46-44 with 4:39 remaining, and UTC forced the Paladins into turnovers on their next two possessions. The Mocs got the looks they wanted and even grabbed two offensive rebounds to create additional possessions, but Dial missed a jumper, Williams missed a layup, Dena Jarrells missed a 3-pointer and Pene Pare missed a pair of free throws — all shots that would have tied or given the Mocs the lead. Furman's Celena Taborn scored on a postup at 2:43, followed by a short jumper by Tate Walters to pull away.
"A team that is not pressing you and not really pressuring you, you should not have that many turnovers against. Those were all 100% because we didn't do the things we were supposed to be doing, and that's what I'm frustrated about. That team wanted it more than we did today, and it's unacceptable." — UTC coach Katie Burrows
All of the good feelings from the limited turnovers in Friday's game went away, with twice as many miscues against a team that was playing a half-court defense. UTC has a SoCon championship-worthy team, but if the turnover situation doesn't improve, the Mocs won't realize their goals.