CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (GoMocs.com)--- University of Tennessee at Chattanooga senior Ka'Vonne Towns (Lilburn, Ga.) put the team on her back in the final minutes Sunday afternoon to keep it close, but fell short on the final shot as the Mocs lost a nail-biter, 59-57 to South Florida.
“Today Ka'Vonne was Taylor Hallish,” UTC head coach Jim Foster said. “She wanted the ball, wanted to take the shots and took the responsibility on her shoulders, which is what seniors do. She played like a senior.”
Towns scored all 10 of Chattanooga's final points including a pair of 3-pointers giving the Mocs a 57-52 lead with 3:52 to play. The Bulls charged back, however, to tie it up and won the contest with a pair of free throws from Shaleth Stringfield in the final minute.
After the USF free throws, UTC drove the court and sophomore Jasmine Joyner (Southaven, Miss.) missed a 3-point attempt with 38 seconds on the clock but the Mocs forced a turnover by the Bulls on a shot clock violation with six seconds remaining.
Foster called a timeout the set up the final play, calling for Towns to take the last shot form beyond the arc.
“My teammates did a great job of knowing I was feeling it,” Towns said. “The last shot did everything but just go in. I had a good look at it and should have made it, but it didn't go in.”
Towns led all scorers with a career-high 18 points making 4-of-9 from beyond the arc, also a career-best. She was joined in double digits by freshman Keiana Gilbert (Columbia, Tenn.) with a career-high 11 points in just her second collegiate game.
Keiana teamed up with her sister Aryanna Gilbert (Columbia, Tenn.) to combine for 11-of-12 of UTC's 17-of-21 performance from the free throw line.
In the first half, the Mocs gave up a 16-8 lead with 9:36 to play in the period when USF put together a 23-5 run to lead 31-21 at the break.
“I thought we played well in the first half except for three minutes,” Foster said. “That last three minutes, when we tied it at 21, that three minutes determined the game.”
Chattanooga started the second half on a 9-7 run, including a 6-of-6 performance form the charity stripe by the Gilberts and capped off with a Towns 3-pointer to make it 33-30 South Florida with 17:36 to play.
Over the next 6:44, the Mocs managed to knot it up 43-43 on a fastbreak layup by sophomore point guard Chelsey Shumpert (Paducah, Ky.). South Florida pulled back out front, taking a 49-45 lead before the Mocs kicked it in again with Towns scoring all 10 of UTC's final points.
Joyner, who led Chattanooga in scoring Friday night, spent much of the first half on the bench with a couple of fouls. She ended the game with six points, a team-high seven rebounds, three steals and adding in a pair of blocks to raise her career total to 58 in 25 minutes on the floor.
Aryanna Gilbert was 4-of-4 from the free throw line for nine points on the night with two rebounds and two blocked shots. Shumpert added in seven points with a team-high three assists and senior Destiny Bramblett (Radcliff, Ky.) was 2-of-3 from beyond the arc for six points.
South Florida's Courtney Williams led the Bulls with 15 points on 5-of-14 shooting with a trio of 3-pointers while Alisia Jenkins dropped in 10 points combined with a game-high 13 rebounds for her second double-double in as many games.
South Florida shot 57.1 percent from the field in the opening period, but were just 8-of-21 in the second half, while the Mocs were 10-of-27 in the latter half after opening with a 25 percent shooting performance.
Chattanooga was 8-of-19 from beyond the arc, making four in each period and was 17-of-21 from the charity stripe. South Florida dropped in six treys and was 13-of-19 from the free throw line.
USF out rebounded the Mocs 39-24, but Chattanooga had the advantage on points off turnovers, converting 19 miscues into 20 points. The Bulls outscored UTC in the paint 24-16, off the bench 24-6 and on second chance points 11-2.
Chattanooga evens its record to 1-1 with its first loss at home since the end of the 2010-11 season, snapping a nation's-best home court win at 40 games. South Florida stays perfect at 2-0.
Chattanooga will hit the road to take on Butler Wednesday night at Hinkle Fieldhouse. The game is set for a 7:00 p.m. start. Fans can log onto GoMocs.com for live video streaming and scoring. Butler is 0-2 on the year after falling to Valparaiso (91-57) in the opener and to Indiana State (66-51) Sunday afternoon.