The Chattanooga women’s basketball team has already accomplished quite a bit this year, but not much of that matters now.
The Lady Mocs started off the regular season by notching one of the largest wins in program history—their 80-71 upset of No. 9 Tennessee on Feb. 9—then, one month later, knocked off its second SEC opponent, Alabama, on the road. After the stellar start in non-conference action, Chattanooga marched through its Southern Conference competition, compiling a 19-1 record in league play, while capturing its 18th SoCon regular season title in school history.
But now it’s tournament time, and that means the start of a new season for UTC.
“You just have to go over there and start all over again,” Chattanooga coach Wes Moore said. “Erase the board and try to do it again for three days.”
The Lady Mocs (26-3), who haven’t lost in nearly two months, enter the 2013 Southern Conference Women’s Basketball Championship as the No. 1 seed, and they'll enjoy an extra day of rest with a first-round bye—the reward for a regular season well played.
Aside from that, though, they’re just like every other team for the four-day tournament in Asheville, N.C.
“If you lose you go home,” UTC freshman Tatianna Jackson said. “You have to go out and play every game hard, and it’s definitely some pressure, but I think it’s going to be a good experience.”
And while the Lady Mocs’ record might not indicate it, they didn’t exactly roll over their conference competition. They enjoyed plenty of lopsided wins, like last Saturday’s 69-45 rout over Appalachian State in their regular-season finale, but also experienced their share of late-game scares.
"I wouldn't say we've dominated," Moore said. "When you look at some of the scores and how close some of these games were, we've really had to—on several occasions—pull it out late in the game. That can be positive. I think our kids have had to step up down the stretch several times, but at the same time, you realize it's a fine line; a small margin for error."
Should Chattanooga come up short in its quest for its 14th SoCon Tournament title in school history, it could still possibly reach the NCAA Tournament with an at-large bid, but that’s not something the Lady Mocs want to leave to chance.
“I don’t think you want to count on that,” Moore said. “You want to go over there with the attitude of controlling your own destiny, and that’s definitely our mindset.”
UTC will face the winner of No. 8 Georgia Southern and No. 9 Western Carolina, who square off Friday at 11:30 a.m. Saturday’s second-round match up for the Lady Mocs is slated for noon at UNC Asheville’s Kimmel Arena.
Michael Murphy covers UTC athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelNooga.