CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- In a game Wes Moore said his team had to have, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball team found a way to win.
Whitney Hood posted her third straight game with 20 or more points and the Lady Mocs took advantage of a few lucky breaks late to hold off Samford 74-68 Wednesday night at the McKenzie Arena.
The win keeps Chattanooga (13-4, 8-0 in SoCon) unbeaten in league play and a half game up on second-place Davidson (11-6, 7-1) in the SoCon standings. The Bulldogs (10-7, 5-3) dropped three games back of the Lady Mocs with the loss.
"I thought our kids competed. Samford is a very physical team, they play extremely hard and they have some very good basketball players. Fortunately, we shot the ball extremely well and we needed every one of those points, as it turned out," said Chattanooga head coach Wes Moore. "It is a big win to protect our serve, so to speak, on our home court. I thought it was a game we had to find a way to win and our kids were able to do that."
They did it with a few lucky bounces in the down the stretch.
Samford was down just four when Jazmine Martin tripped while driving for an uncontested layup after a steal. The Lady Mocs took possession and found Alex Black open for a 3-pointer that pushed the lead to seven with 8:36 to play.
But the dagger came in the closing minute when Tenisha Townsend corralled a loose ball and fired a quick 3-pointer from the left wing as the shot clock expired. It found nothing but net for a 70-61 lead with 0:46 to play.
"We were a little fortunate there at the end with Tenisha's 3-pointer at the end of the shot clock, but on the other hand you have to give her some credit. She is a senior who was aware of the situation and was able to get a shot up," Moore said. "We were fortunate it went in, but that was a big bucket."
Hood, the reigning SoCon Player of the Week, led all scorers with 21 points, with 16 of them coming in the second half. Kayla Christopher and Kylie Lambert each tossed in 12 points, while Lambert had a game-high seven rebounds and four assists.
"This game really meant a lot for us because they put us out of the tournament last year. There was a lot of determination for us in this game," said Hood, referencing the Lady Mocs' tournament semifinal loss to Samford a year ago on the same floor.
Chattanooga has started slow in recent weeks, but came out running against Samford.
UTC opened the game with a 9-2 run, then reeled off a 19-9 run to push the lead to 37-27 after the Bulldogs had rallied to tie it. Samford stayed within single digits the rest of the way and cut the lead to just two on three occasions, but the Bulldogs were never able to grab the lead.
"The last few games we have not gotten out to a good start, so it was really good for us to do that tonight," said Christopher. "I think that when they did have the punch back, we were right there with them and had a lot more confidence."
Chattanooga shot 50-percent (25-50) from the field for the game, but uncharacteristic free throw struggles kept it interesting down the stretch. The Lady Mocs made just 10-of-17 shots from the charity stripe in the second half.
Paige Anderson led four Samford players in double figures with 16 points.
The game was the second of four straight against teams chasing UTC in the standings. Chattanooga beat fifth-place Furman on Sunday before dispatching the fourth-place Bulldogs.
Next up is Saturday's road trip to third-place Appalachian State (12-3, 6-1), who trails the Lady Mocs by just one game, followed by a visit to second-place Davidson next week.