UTC Women bounce back, hold off Samford to win 61-56
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (gomocs.com) --- The Chattanooga women's basketball team opened the second half on a 14-0 run to take its first lead since the opening period and went on to beat the Samford Bulldogs 61-56 in Southern Conference action Thursday night at The McKenzie Arena.
"Our defense really tightened up," Chattanooga head coach Katie Burrows said. "In the first half we were giving up too many back doors and a couple of wide open looks, but once we started to contest each and every shot, it made them have to alter their form a little bit."
The second half started all Chattanooga with a 14-0 run. All four of the Mocs' top scorers were in on the offensive action to make it a 38-25 game with 3:51 to play in the period. Samford was 0-for-7 to start the third quarter and had three turnovers before the Bulldogs' Ta'Naisha Hill made a layup at 2:01 to break up the Mocs' run.
Chattanooga's largest lead of the game came in the fourth quarter on a 3-pointer from the corner by freshman Pare Pene who saw large minutes in the game at the point. Her trey made it 51-37 for the Mocs with 7:10 to play in the game.
"She had a great week of practice," Burrows said of Pene's increased time on the floor. "To fill Molly's [Melton] shoes is a tough task because she is just a little general out there. She's not a scorer, but she pushes tempo, she handles the ball, she gets people where they're supposed to be so we just challenged Pare to step up. I can't express enough how proud I was of her."
Samford would cut the lead back to single digits with an 8-0 run to make it 51-45 with 4:05 remaining. Burns scored five of her seven points in the next 1:42 to help push the Mocs lead to 59-50 on an old-fashioned three-point play by the sophomore.
The Bulldogs continued their push with the next six points including a 3-pointer from Natalie Armstrong to bring Samford to within three at 59-56. The Mocs missed on their next attempt, but an errant pass out of bounds by Samford with 12.6 seconds to play secured the win for the Mocs.
The third quarter run found its start in the second period. After trailing Samford 20-11 with 7:26 to play in the frame, the Mocs went on a 13-2 run to take a 24-22 lead late in the quarter. Morgan Hill hit a layup to tie it up 22-22 with 2:01 to go in the half and then connected on both of her free throws to put the Mocs out front for the first time since midway through the first.
Samford closed the half, however, with a 3-pointer from leading scorer Hill to put the Bulldogs out front 25-24 at intermission.
Chattanooga had four players in double figures and shot 54.5 percent in the second half to improve to 12-14 overall and 7-4 against the conference. Samford dropped to 9-17 overall and 4-7 in league play.
Arianne Whitaker, Lakelyn Bouldin and Eboni Williams each had 12 points to lead the Mocs and Morgan Hill was the Mocs' fourth player in double digits with 10 points and a team-high three assists. Brooke Burns had a team-high seven rebounds and chipped in seven points.
Samford had a UTC-low 20 rebounds compared to the Mocs 35 and did not score a single second chance point on six offensive rebounds while the Mocs had 13 points on 12 boards.
The teams dueled it out in the paint with Samford taking a 30-26 advantage and outscored the Mocs 22-17 off the bench. UTC was 21-of-45 (46.7%) for the game and 4-for-15 from long range. Samford also connected on 21 field goals (42.9%) and the Mocs held the league's top 3-point shooting team to just five from beyond the arc. The difference, however, was at the stripe where UTC had its second-best shooting percentage at the free throw line making 15-of-17 compared to Samford's 9-of-10.
Chattanooga will host Mercer Saturday afternoon in a 2:00 p.m. tilt. Seniors Molly Melton, Shelbie Davenport and NaKeia Burks will play their final game at the Roundhouse. They will be honored after the game. Tickets are on sale at the McKenzie Arena box office or online at GoMocs.com.