The Chattanooga women’s basketball team trailed at the half for just the fourth time all seasonin their game against Samford on Wednesday evening at McKenzie Arena.
Not a whole lot went right for the Lady Mocs in the first half, and, with his team facing a narrow deficit at the intermission, UTC head coach Wes Moore didn’t get much enjoyment out of the opening 20 minutes.
“At least from where I was, it was about like getting a root canal,” Moore said. “It wasn’t a whole lot of fun.”
The visiting Bulldogs knocked down four 3-pointers in the first five minutes of action to take a 12-4 lead, and while Chattanooga knotted things up on four occasions in the first half, its offense just wasn't there. The Lady Mocs’ leading scorer, Ashlen Dewart, couldn’t get anything going. The 6-4 junior started the game 1-for-8 from the field — 0 of 4 from the free-throw line — and had just four points at the break.
The team's offense didn’t exactly explode in the second half, but one player in particular, made sure the team’s 22-game home winning streak wouldn’t be ended on Wednesday.
“I think it was an example in the second half of a senior who just refused to lose,” Moore said.
Lady Mocs senior Kayla Christopher knocked down four 3-pointer, and scored all of her game-high 19-points in the final 20 minutes, helping her team erase its three-point halftime deficit and capture a 60-46 victory.
“We talked at halftime; she had taken just one shot,” Moore said. “I told her you’re going to have to get more shots up. People in the league, they watch film; they know what she can do. It's not easy. They're going to make it difficult for her to get looks, but I thought she stepped up and was very determined to get it done."
The 5-9 guard buried her first shot from beyond the arc with 17:04 remaining, bringing UTC to within 31-29.
“I didn’t get a lot of looks in the first half, and at halftime coach Moore told me I needed to be more aggressive,” Christopher said. “I tried to do that in the second half. Once you hit one you get a little confidence. It was all good from there.”
She knocked down a 24-footer less than two minutes later, tying things at 32-32, and Christopher added her third trey with 13:16 to play, giving the Lady Mocs a 39-36 advantage with 13:16 left to play.
Her fourth and final 3 — this from aproximately 25 feet out — put UTC ahead 46-40 at about the nine-minute mark, and Chattanooga closed out the game with an 18-6 run, securing the regular-season sweep over Samford after last month’s 66-60 victory over the Bulldogs..
“I honestly don’t even realize it at the time,” said Christopher, who finished with a game-high 19 points. “When you’re in the zone; when you’re feeling good, you don’t really realize how far out you are.”
The Lady Mocs also received a strong showing from their bench players, particularly guards Tatianna Jackson and Ka’Vonne Towns. UTC’s reserves outscored Samford's 21-1, but they accounted for more than just points.
In addition to her 10 points, Jackson, a 5-10 freshman, collected five rebounds and three steals for Chattanooga, while sophomore Ka’Vonne Towns added seven points, five boards, a steal and a blocked shot.
“Several people came to the rescue on a tough night,” Moore said.
Dewart finished with eight points and four rebounds for the Lady Mocs — her second straight single-digit scoring performance — and junior forward Faith Dupree added just four. The two were a combined 5 of 21 from the field.
“We have to continue working on the post,” Moore said. “Doing a better job of getting big, sealing off the defender and having the guards get them the ball. We’ve got lots of things to work on, but they dug deep and found a way to get it done.”
Chattanooga returns to the court Saturday against Elon, the first game of a doubleheader with the UTC men's team. The Lady Mocs face the Phoenix at 5 p.m., followed by the Mocs’ game against College of Charleston at 7:30.
Michael Murphy covers UTC athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelNooga.