ASHEVILLE, NC (WRCB) -- Kylie Lambert would never have dreamed she would spend more time on the bench as a senior than in any of her previous three years on the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball team.
But in the former McMinn Central star's defense, she didn't have much choice.
Injuries have limited Lambert's impact the last two months, testing the patience of a hard-nosed player known for going all-out all the time.
"It's definitely a toughness thing for me. I'm not used to not playing," Lambert said. "I've just tried to keep my focus on getting better and focus on the bigger prize, which is going to the tournament and playing well there."
Rest has been the only remedy for the painful shin splints Lambert has battled since December. She's only missed one game, but she's hardly practiced during SoCon play and has had her minutes closely monitored.
The pain is tough to manage at times, especially for a defensive-minded player who usually leads the team in the "hustle" stats like offensive rebounds, steals and charges taken.
"Kylie does so much for us. It may not always show up on the stat sheet, but her versatility is really critical, as is her ability to really guard somebody," said head coach Wes Moore. "It's definitely affected us and I hate it for her, but she's handled it well."
It helped that UTC kept winning.
The Lady Mocs finished 19-1 in SoCon play, including a 16-game win streak to close the regular season, allowing Lambert to get a little extra rest in a few blowouts.
The team's success helped her stay motivated to find other ways to help her teammates.
"I try to do the best I could but it's been really nice having people who could step up from the bench and do really well."
Lambert hopes her time on the bench is over, aside from a hopeful quarterfinal blowout of Georgia Southern, whom the Lady Mocs have already routed twice this season. The two meet Saturday at 12pm ET in the SoCon Tournament.
She swallowed her pride all season to be healthy for her final tournament run, so she plans to hold nothing back.
"I can't think about whether or not I hurt today," Lambert said. "I have to go out and play every game like it's my last because it's coming to an end."