A disappointing season for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball team came to a disappointing finish for the Mocs on Thursday night, when they lost 70-63 in overtime to Furman in the opening round of the Southern Conference tournament in Asheville, North Carolina.
The Mocs went 7-23 in 2021-22, the worst record in program history.
UTC junior Abbey Cornelius, back from an injury that cost the team's leading scorer and rebounder this season six games, scored a career-high 26 points in the finale, with 15 of those in the fourth quarter. The 6-foot-2 All-Southern Conference second-team selection made 11 of 15 shots, grabbed nine rebounds and chipped in a pair of blocks.
Brooke Hampel added 10 points for the sixth-seeded Mocs, while Sigrun Olafsdottir had eight points, seven assists and five rebounds in a team-high 38 minutes. Freshman point guard Addie Porter, who stands 5-4, had a team-high 10 rebounds and scored seven points.
Third-seeded Furman (18-11) beat UTC for the third time this year — the Paladins won 63-50 on Jan. 29 in Greenville, South Carolina, and 64-43 on Feb. 24 in Chattanooga — and advanced to Friday's semifinals to face second-seeded Wofford (17-12) at 1:15 p.m. Wofford won 66-54 earlier Thursday against seventh-seeded East Tennessee State (6-22).
Friday's 11 a.m. semifinal pits top-seeded Mercer (21-6) against fourth-seeded Samford (13-16). In the quarterfinals, Mercer won 85-46 against eighth-seeded Western Carolina (7-23), while Samford won 59-40 against fifth-seeded UNC Greensboro (9-19).
As for the Mocs, their final game was perhaps their best performance of the season. They built a 14-point lead during the first quarter and led for almost 36 minutes of the game. UTC's advantage was 47-42 after three quarters, but the team's Achilles' heel this season — turnovers — came back to bite it in the second half, when the Mocs had 12 miscues leading to 10 Furman points.
Cornelius' last points of the game put the Mocs up 60-56 with 1:11 remaining in regulation, but the Paladins had two baskets while the Mocs turned the ball over on their final two possessions. UTC had 21 giveaways for the game.
Furman never trailed in the extra period. Tate Walters knocked down a 3 on the team's second possession of overtime, and the Mocs managed only an Olafsdottir layup with 2:57 to play for their lone basket after regulation.
"You can't have 21 turnovers and give up 20 offensive rebounds and win a ballgame," UTC coach Katie Burrows said. "A lot of positives to take away from it, and we have to buckle down if we want to win the big games."
The Mocs lose only Pare Pene for the 2022-23 season, with the NCAA's blanket waiver granting an extra year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic allowing Cornelius, among others, to return.
"We're going to be that team that we've played all year long, if that makes sense," Burrows said. "We have three kids coming back that we shouldn't have because of COVID. I've got all these young kids that have all this great experience, and they've got three years left to do something amazing with it.
"Those kids in the locker room are not going to let this outcome happen again. They're going to be practicing, going to the gym all summer, and they're going to do all they can to keep that from happening again."
Compiled by Gene Henley. Contact him at email@example.com.