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Staff file photo by Doug Strickland / Chattanooga women's basketball coach Katie Burrows directs players during the Mocs' home basketball game against the Paladins at McKenzie Arena on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Sixth.

That's where Southern Conference coaches picked the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball team to finish in league play this season. The media voters were somewhat kinder, slotting the Mocs for third, which is still a bit lower than they're normally predicted to finish, given their 15 NCAA tournament appearances over the years, including nine since 2006.

Then again, Katie Burrows' first UTC team did finish 14-17 last season.

Asked if she considered this a motivational tool for the most successful women's program in SoCon history, Burrows said, "I'll give you a yes-and-no answer. Let's be honest. The bull's-eye is always on us. When you win as much as we have over the years, the bull's-eye is always on you."

But, she added, "It's also a slap in the face. We can look at it as 'So you think we're sixth. Let us show you otherwise.'"

Odds are, the Mocs will do just that. After all, it's not as if this team is bereft of talent. On the same day the league coaches picked them sixth in league standings, they also named senior Lakelyn Bouldin and sophomore Eboni Williams to the preseason all-conference team.

Bouldin's 13 points per game last season placed her seventh in league scoring and second in free-throw shooting. Williams was the SoCon freshman of the year.

Said Williams of the preseason team predictions: "We're going to show everybody (how good we are) when we start the season."

Burrows isn't waiting for the season opener at Belmont on Nov. 6 to adjust her coaching style from her first year in charge of a program she's been a part of in one capacity or another — player, assistant coach, head coach — for 14 seasons total, including the upcoming one.

"There was so much to get going (last year) that I overdid it," Burrows said. "I was pushing too hard. I feel like that burned them out in February."

The numbers would suggest that. After seven wins in eight games improved their record to 11-11 on Feb. 2, the Mocs lost six of nine down the stretch by an average of 6.2 points.

Some of that was youth, inexperience and untimely injuries. But Burrows also believed the offense grew stale and stagnant.

"We were getting no movement on offense," she said Tuesday. "We completely revamped it over the summer."

If her coaching legend father Joe Galloway and sister Kristen (a former high school coach) are any indication, the change already appears to be a success.

"They watched practice one day," Burrows said. "They were like, 'Wow! This looks much better.'"

What does she thinks the fans will quickly notice about the new, improved offense?

"Just more movement, mixing it up a little bit," she said. " I hope they'll see more scoring."

Williams, in particular, expects to improve her 8.8 scoring average and 31 percent shooting from 3-point range, as well as cut back on the team-high 76 turnovers she committed last season.

"I've definitely slowed down," she said. "And I've been working on my shot. All the coaches have helped me with it."

Though she'd been a UTC assistant for eight seasons before succeeding Hall of Fame coach Jim Foster in the spring of 2018, Burrows says she has somewhat altered her fiery coaching style to better communicate with today's student-athlete.

"I can be, um, passionate sometimes," she said with a smile. "We vet our players pretty well. We know what they can and can't take. We also know they want to be pushed. They want to win. But you need to listen to your kids. Sometimes I've had to step back and tell them, 'I didn't handle that situation very well. I'll do better next time.' I think I'm doing a better job of understanding what each player needs."

Williams said the team already has seen a difference in Burrows from last season to this one.

"She's trying to make everything good," she said. "Both on and off the court."

It's often said a coach makes his or her biggest improvement from the first season to the second. Burrows sounds like someone expecting exactly that.

"We know what works and what doesn't at this point," she said. "I'm really, really, really looking forward to this season."

Especially now that she has the coaches' vote to figuratively slap her players in the face.

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com.

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