CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (GoMocs.com)--- The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball team will open the 2015-16 season on Friday, November 13 against McNeese State in the 2015 Preseason Women's National Invitation Tournament at the McKenzie Arena.
This will be the first meeting between the Mocs and McNeese State. The Cowgirls were 18-14 last season and finished fifth in the Southland Conference standings at 11-7.
McNeese State fell to Houston Baptist 70-68 in the opening round of the league tournament and went on to play in the Women's Basketball Invitational (WBI). The Cowgirls defeated Furman of the Southern Conference in the opening round before dropping a 63-58 decision to Louisiana-Lafayette in the next round.
The Cowgirls will be making their third WNIT preseason appearance and own a 2-2 overall record in tournament action. The Cowgirls' first appearance came during the 2004-05 season when the Cowgirls fell 62-43 at Rice. The last appearance by McNeese came during the 2011-12 season. McNeese fell 67-59 at UCLA but picked up two wins in the consolation bracket held at Burton Coliseum. McNeese defeated Manhattan 69-52 and University of Alabama-Birmingham in overtime by a 61-56 score.
This will be the Mocs' fourth appearance in the preseason tournament. Chattanooga hosted UAB in the opening game on Nov. 11, 2011 coming away with a 65-59 win. UTC fell 91-31 to then No. 1 Baylor and Brittney Griner. The Bears defeated Notre Dame for the Preseason WNIT title and would go on to set an NCAA record for wins in a season with an unblemished 40-0 record and the NCAA National Championship crown. The Mocs went on to beat Indiana State in the consolation round 75-54 for its guaranteed third game.
Chattanooga fell 74-53 to the Sycamores in 2005 on ISU's home court and dropped a 69-52 decision at Louisiana Tech in 2000.
The Mocs posted their third straight 29-4 record last year, a school record for wins, while gathering the Southern Conference regular season and tournament titles along the way. UTC advanced to its 13th NCAA Tournament, falling to Pittsburgh in the opening round.
Chattanooga posted a 25-game win streak, tied for third longest in school history, and ran the table in the SoCon tournament for a second straight season (14-0) and fifth time overall. UTC reached a ranking of 17th in the AP Top 25 and was ranked 18th in the USA Today Coaches Poll, both the highest ranking for the Mocs.
UTC reached those rankings with wins over then-No. 4 Tennessee and then-No. 7 Stanford. It was the Mocs' first-ever wins over teams ranked in the Top 10. Both wins were on Chattanooga's home court.
Head Coach Jim Foster, a 2013 Women's Basketball Hall of Fame inductee, was named the SoCon Coach of the Year by the league coaches and media and received his second straight Tennessee Sports Writers' Association Coach of the Year Award. Jasmine Joyner (Southaven, Miss.) was named the tournament MVP while Alicia Payne (Memphis, Tenn.) was named the league's Defensive Player of the Year. Joyner and Chelsey Shumpert (Paducah, Ky.) were named to the All-Conference team and Keiana Gilbert (Pulaski, Tenn.) was selected to the All-Freshman team.
Chattanooga returns nine letterwinners and gains two redshirts. Starters Joyner, Payne, Gilbert and Shumpert are joined by Aryanna Gilbert (Pulaski, Tenn.) who fell out of the starting lineup after she was injured eight games into the year, Moses Johnson (Atlanta, Ga.), Sydney Vanlandingham (Hermitage, Tenn.), Anna Claire Noblit (Tuscumbia, Ala.) and Ansley Chilton (Trenton, Ga.).
Queen Alford (Decatur, Ga.) transferred from Jacksonville of the Atlantic Sun where she was an all-conference performer and the team's leading scorer. She will be joined by 6-foot-5 Ashlyn Wert who sat out her first year.
Freshmen Molly Melton of the Webb School in Knoxville and Nakeia Burks from Huntsville High School, will join the squad in their hunt for a 20th SoCon regular season title.
Chattanooga will host the first round with a 6:30 p.m. start at the McKenzie Arena. The Mocs second round possible opponent is Indiana or Tennessee State who play earlier in the day in Bloomington, Ind. All games will be played at home sites. Watch GoMocs.com for information on tickets and the complete schedule.