CHATTANOOGA (UTC) -- Taylor Hall and Whitney Hood combined for 36 points to lead the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball team to a 67-52 win over Georgia Southern at the McKenzie Arena on Monday night.
The Lady Mocs, who entered the night two games back in the Southern Conference race,kept pace with first-place Appalachian State in the standings. The Mountaineers beat Elon to improve to 15-1 in league play, while UTC improved to 13-3 with its win over the Eagles.
Chattanooga, who remained perfect at home (11-0) this season, also moved within a half-game of second-place Davidson. The Wildcats play Samford on Tuesday night.
"I want (my team) to realize that we have a shot right now, bu I also realize we have zero margin for error," said head coach Wes Moore. "It was a good win and right now every game is critical. We can't afford any more hiccups.
"We had to take care of business here and now we have to go on the road."
Hall poured in a career-high 19 points and matched her career-best for rebounds with 15 for her fifth double-double of the season. She was 7-of-14 from the field and had a pair of 3-pointers while pulling in five offensive boards.
Hood was 7-of-16 from the floor and scored 17 points, knocking down her first 3-pointer at Chattanooga, second of her career.
"It was a team effort," Hall said, though admitting it was probably her best game of the season. "They were doubling on Hood and she got me some open looks."
Moore revealed after the game Hall has been playing with a sprained finger the past few weeks, which is the reason she's struggled to find her shot.
"They'd been taping two fingers together on her shooting hand. Now they've cut back to just taping that one finger by itself. I think that's made a big difference, and I think if nothing else, confidence wise, she's feeling better about it," Moore said. "She hit a couple of big threes, but Taylor on the boards is unbelievable. I think 15 rebounds tonight is phenomenal. That gives you a big lift when you get a second and third look."
Chattanooga used a 10-2 run to move ahead 14-7 early in the first half. Hood did most of the offensive damage inside with 11 first-half points, and UTC held the Eagles scoreless over the final five minutes of the first half to open a 35-22 advantage at the break.
UTC looked ready to run away with the win with a 15-4 surge out of the locker room in the second half. Hall's 3-pointer with 11:21 to go pushed the Lady Mocs' lead to 50-26, its largest of the game.
But after shooting 62-percent from the field in the first half, the Lady Mocs cooled off considerably in the final 15 minutes. UTC went four minutes without a field goal, allowing the Eagles to rip off a 22-7 run and pull within nine points twice in the final five minutes.
Chattanooga's effort on the glass proved to be the difference. Hall and Hood both had big putbacks of missed shots down the stretch to help UTC seal the victory.
"We knew they could make a run at any time, and they did," Hall said. "We knew we had to keep playing hard, and that's where offensive rebounding came in. We we started missing shots, we knew that's something we could do and control to keep the momentum."
The Lady Mocs finished with a 42-33 rebounding edge, but grabbed 15 offensive rebounds for eleven second-chance points.
Junior Kayla Christopher went 2-of-5 from the 3-point line and tied Jan Cameron (1991-94) for fifth on Chattanooga's all-time list with 161.
The Lady Mocs hit 8-of-17 (47.1-percent) shots from behind the arc.
"It was great to see the shot fall. We haven't done that in a while," Moore said. "I still think this team has got it in them. I think we've got people that can knock down threes. A lot of times it's a mental thing. I think it's contagious.
"If you get a few people hitting threes then everybody else starts feeling it too. Hopefully we can make that happen these next two or three weeks of the season."
UTC will travel to Cullowhee, N.C., this weekend to take on Western Carolina at the Ramsey Center Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. ET. The Lady Mocs have four games left, two at home and two on the road.
Chattanooga will host Appalachian State in its home finale on February 27.
"We've stumbled the last three out of four on the road," Moore said. "There is no doubt we have the talent to get it done, but on the road you have to be tougher. We have a big challenge ahead of us.
"We have four games left and we have to win all four of them to have any hope."
Information provided by UTC Sports Information and GoMocs.com.
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