Lady Mocs keep season alive with WNIT bid - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Lady Mocs keep season alive with WNIT bid

CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- The news the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball team was hoping for finally came late Monday night.

A week after a premature and disappointing exit from the Southern Conference Tournament, the Lady Mocs earned a chance to redeem themselves with a bid to play in the postseason Women's NIT.

UTC will travel to Memphis for an opening-round contest on Thursday, March 15. Tip time has been scheduled for 8 p.m. ET.

"I met with the team last week when we heard there was a possibility of playing. Some of them weren't fired up, but the veterans spoke up and said this was our chance to make a statement," head coach Wes Moore said. "Our kids have shown a lot of energy at practice. We've been trying to go harder for a shorter amount of time, and they've really had a lot of intensity.

"It's been nice to see they aren't ready to hang up their shoes."

Memphis was 24-7 overall this season, including 16-1 at home, and finished second in Conference USA with a 13-3 league mark. The Tigers are making their second straight WNIT appearance, having lost to Alabama 80-69 at home in last year's opening round.

"It's nice to get a do-over, or a mulligan, if you will, but what a challenge we've got ahead of us," Moore said. "Watching film on them you can tell they're very athletic. They're top two scorers are transfers from the University of Georgia. They led Conference USA in scoring at 70 points per game.

Chattanooga is 2-3 all-time against the Tigers, but the two teams haven't played since 1981.

"It's like we're going from the frying pan into the fire, but it's still nice to have more basketball ahead of us."

The winner advances to face either Missouri State or University of Missouri-Kansas City in a second round game to be played this weekend.

UTC (22-9, 16-4 in SoCon) most recently played in the WNIT in 2000, 2005 and 2009 as part of eleven straight postseason appearances. That streak was snapped last year.

Chattanooga won its opening games in both 2000 (70-68 over Alabama) and 2005 (50-40 over Villanova) before bowing out in round two. UTC was ousted by Kentucky, 91-54, in the opening round in 2009.

"It hasn't been forver since we've won in the postseason," Moore said, noting those past NIT wins. "Sure the last two years have not been up to our standards, but I don't think 22-9 is anything to be embarrassed about.

"I hope our kids are excited about the opportunity. We'll see what we can do, but surerly it would be great to get a postseason win and move on to that second round."

The Lady Mocs are one of three Southern Conference teams in the 64-team field, joining regular season co-champs Davidson and Appalachian State. The Wildcats were guaranteed a WNIT spot after earning the top seed in the SoCon Tournament.

Davidson will travel to James Madison in Thursday night's opening round, while the Mountaineers will play at UNC Wilmington.

Appalachian State beat UTC 77-52 in the semifinals of the SoCon Tournament before losing to Samford in the championship game. The Lady Mocs' SoCon-best RPI of 59 helped them earn a WNIT bid despite a third-place league finish.

Chattanooga would have been a candidate to host an opening round WNIT game because of its strong attendance numbers, but a scheduling conflict ruled out the possibility. McKenzie Arena was already booked this week to hose the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus.

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