CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- Faith Dupree wasted no time making her presence felt in the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's road win at Davidson.
And that's a good thing, because she didn't have much time to make an impression.
"I think the adrenaline got me through the first part of the game, and then when it wore off I realized just how out of shape I was," Dupree said.
The 6-foot-3 junior post player saw her first action in two months last Friday, scoring 11 points in 14 minutes as the Lady Mocs moved into first place in the Southern Conference by handing the Wildcats their first league loss.
Dupree hadn't played since November after suffering a knee injury in UTC's third game of the season. She wasn't scheduled to return to the floor for another three weeks, making her return last week a bit of a surprise.
"I just tried to take my time coming back. I didn't want to push it and cause any more problems," Dupree said. "But I went to the doctor the last time and they said everything check out great, so I was excited to get back on the floor."
Part of her motivation for a speedy return was the guilt she felt towards her teammate in the post, Ashlen Dewart, who carried the load for the Lady Mocs in Dupree's absence.
"I felt so bad for making Ashlen play 30 minutes a game," Dupree said shyly. "I couldn't help it, I guess, but I kept telling her that I was sorry."
Turns out, it will still be awhile before she can shave some of Dewart's minutes down. Dupree battled the flu as soon as she returned to practice, so it will take some time to get her endurance back.
That means more apologies are on the way.
"It just makes me laugh," Dewart said about Dupree's apologies. "I'm never going to complain about playing time. She cracks me up all the time, so it's just another laugh between us."
The two have shared plenty of them the last two years, but a few serious talks, as well.
Dupree has met her share of setbacks in her college career, battling back problems that forced her eventual transfer from Tennessee.
"My mom has definitely said she can't believe how I'm so patient with this stuff," Dupree said. "I guess I'm just used to it and it comes with being an athlete. At some point you're going to get injured and you're going to have to recover."
Dewart didn't battle an injury, but she did have her struggles dealing with a full year off the court. The 6-foot-3 post sat out last season after transferring from Appalachian State, and Dupree's experiences dealing with adversity offered the perfect sounding board.
"She definitely was my person to vent to when I had to wait, but she's had to wait twice as long as I have if not longer because of this year. I can't imagine what that's like," Dewart said.
With Dupree back in the rotation, Wes Moore now hopes he won't have to imagine life without his dynamic duo the rest of the season.
The Lady Mocs' coach says each is better when they can share minutes and stay fresh, making their health a key cog in UTC's SoCon championship run.
"No doubt (Faith) makes a difference, said Moore, whose team is 15-3 overall and 8-1 in league play heading into Saturday's showdown with Appalachian State. "Her and Ashlen as a tag-team, they support each other really well. They both have the ability to score from anywhere on the floor, and there's not many teams that can match up with two post players of their size.
"Hopefully with them both back and healthy, we'll be able to get that done."
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