The Chattanooga Mocs and Georgia Southern Eagles came together Sunday afternoon at the Georgia State Holiday Classic at the GSU Sports Arena for the first time since the Eagles left the Southern Conference in 2014 and the clash did not disappoint.
Chattanooga lit up the scoreboard early and often, outscoring GSU 96-87 behind the deadly accurate effort of the Mocs. UTC improves to 3-4 overall and Georgia Southern evens its record at 3-3 on the year.
“Really excited about the fact that we learned that when we play individually we’re not as successful,” head coach Katie Burrows said. “We finally figured that out and we were successful with that tonight. Hopefully that’s a trend.”
Bria Dial led all scorers, matching her career-best with 23 points. She went 4-for-4 from beyond the arc in the first quarter and was 7-of-11 from range, becoming the fourth UTC player to make four 3-pointers in a game. That is just one shy of the school-record set by Marcheta Winton in 1988.
She and Eboni Williams combined for 43 of the Mocs points, marking the first time since UTC’s triple overtime win at ETSU last season, that two UTC players topped 20 points. Williams was 8-of-13 for 20 points and pulled down a game-high eight boards with four assists.
Not to be left out of the action was freshman Sigrun Olafsdottir who had career-highs for scoring with 16 points, rebounds with six and dished out eight of the Mocs’ 25 assists. Abbey Cornelius added 16 points, five assists, a pair of blocked shots and five rebounds.
The Mocs’ fifth player in double figures was Morgan Hill with 13 points she was a perfect 5-of-5 from the field with three from deep.
“We were finding those players,” Burrows said. “We noticed that they had the hot hand and were able to get the ball to them.
“I was impressed that [Bria] and Eboni did their thing. Sigrun finally came alive. I talked with her and said: ‘Be who you are and don’t try to change who you are.’ She finally connected as well.”
Chattanooga started the game hot making 11-of-15 (73.3%) from the field in the opening quarter. While cooling slightly in the second making just 35.3 percent of their attempts, the Mocs picked up the pace in the second half with 55 points on a 17-of-29 (58.6%) effort.
UTC’s improvement was also seen at the free throw line where the Mocs were 14-of-17.
After the Eagles started the scoring with a driving layup, Chattanooga put together a 15-4 run powered by three of Dial’s 3-pointers to go up 15-6 with 5:44 to play in the frame.
Late in the quarter, however, Georgia Southern, strengthened by 10 UTC miscues, put together a quick 8-0 run to lead 27-26 at the end of the first.
Georgia Southern pushed its lead to 29-26 to start the second quarter, but Olafsdottir’s 3-pointer tied the game at 29 apiece. The two teams combined to go 0-for-7 over the next two minutes before Williams’ layup gave UTC a 31-29 lead.
The Eagles reclaimed the lead in the frame, getting out front 37-33 with 2:14 to play, but the Mocs would not be kept down. Williams and Kallie Searcy converted on back-to-back 3-point plays for the Mocs to take a 39-37 lead. GSU tied the game on a layup but Morgan Hill’s steal and fast break layup at the buzzer sent the teams to the locker room with the Mocs leading.
Chattanooga maintained its lead through the third quarter taking its largest lead of the game to that point, 69-61, on a four-point play from Abbey Cornelius who was knocked to the ground after making her first 3-pointer this season.
Dial made two more of her 3-pointers in the third and showed off her driving skills with a layup.
Georgia Southern, however, was not to be ignored. The Eagles went on a 7-0 run to finish the frame and cut the Mocs lead to 69-68 with 10 minutes to play.
The fourth saw the Eagles battle back, tying the game on a pair of free throws with 7:22 to play and take the lead just over a minute later.
Williams responded with a 3-pointer on the next possession, sparking an 11-0 run capped off by a 3-pointer from Hill to give UTC an 85-76 lead with 3:42 to play.
UTC combined that run with eight straight points to outscore the Eagles 19-5 for its largest lead, 93-81 with 52 seconds to play.
Chattanooga was 34-of-61 (55.7%) from the floor and made 14-of-27 3-pointers, two shy of the school and SoCon record set by UTC against GSU in 2010.
Georgia Southern was 29-of-72 on the day and made eight from beyond the arc while sinking 21-of-23 free throws. The Eagles scored 29 off the Mocs’ 25 turnovers and had 11 second chance points on 10 offensive boards. The bench outscored Chattanooga’s 50-21.
“There are still a few too many turnovers, but the fact that we were able to share the ball and have 25 assists definitely cancelled that out,” Burrows said.
Jaiden Hamilton led the Eagles with 16 points, making 7-of-8 free throws. She was joined in double figures by A’Tyanna Gaulden with 12, Shondell Vickers with 11 and Terren Ward added 10 points and a game-high eight rebounds. Eight different players combined for 15 steals.
The Mocs will wrap up its 16-day, eight-game run after a delayed start to the season Monday afternoon against host Georgia State. The game is slated to tip at 3:00 p.m. following the Georgia Southern/Western Carolina game that starts at 1:00 p.m. The game will be streamed on ESPN+ and Larry Ward will have the call live on WFLI 1070 AM/97.7 FM.