The Chattanooga women’s basketball team placed five in double figures Saturday afternoon at Hawkins Arena to lead the Mocs to a 69-60 Southern Conference victory over Mercer. UTC improves to 9-7 overall and 4-3 in league play while the Bears move to 11-5 on the year and 5-2 against the conference.
“We had five in double-figures and our starters just killed it today,” Mocs head coach Katie Burrows said. “We had some opportunities for some reserves to come in and give them some quality minutes and get a breath. Just real proud of the overall effort.”
Abbey Cornelius posted her third double-double of the season with 14 points, 13 rebounds and a game-high tying five assists. Joining her in double digits was Bria Dial and Sigrun Olafsdottir with 12 and Amaria Pugh and Eboni Williams with 10 apiece.
“Can’t express enough just the fight that they still have in them,” Burrows said. “When I challenge them, they step up to the challenge. We just have to start out that way. It was vice-versa at Furman, started out real strong and deflated. Now we just have to put two game together.”
Chattanooga started the game on an 11-3 run, but the Bears responded with its own 14-2 sprint to lead 17-13 at the end of the first quarter. In the second, Kallie Searcy banked in a 3-pointer from the left side, sparking a 9-0 run that cut Mercer’s lead to 27-26 with two minutes to play in the half. The Bears got the next two buckets to push its lead to 31-26 at intermission.
In the third quarter, the Mocs made 10-of-12 from the free throw line and outscored the Bears 18-13 in the period to tie the game 44-44 heading into the final 10 minutes. UTC kept up the pressure and held a 25-16 advantage in the final frame.
Amoria Neal-Tysor started the period off with a layup to regain the lead for Mercer. However, Dial, stymied from the outside, drove the lane and tied it 46-46 just seconds later to start a 9-0 Mocs’ run.
The difference in the game Saturday from Thursday was on the boards. The Mocs beat the Bears 40-30 on rebounds and allowed only nine second chance points on 12 offensive rebounds.
Following Dial’s bucket, the Mocs grabbed the defensive board on the other end and converted that into a lay-in from Eboni Williams. The Bears missed their next chance and Dial pushed the Mocs’ advantage with another inside to put UTC up 50-46 at the 8:11 mark of the game.
“She got ticked off (scoreless on Thursday), because she didn’t get any looks the other day and she wasn’t a factor,” Burrows said of her senior. “She said, ‘you know what, I am going to find a way to be a factor today.’ She attacked the rim. What that does is it puts a little more pressure on them.”
With yet another missed chance on the Mercer end of the court, Sigrun Olafsdottir drained a 3-pointer from the left side to give UTC a 53-46 lead and the Bears’ head coach Susie Gardner called her second timeout of the period with just 2:33 gone in the quarter.
After four missed Mercer baskets and turnovers by both teams, the Bears’ Shannon Titus drew a foul and knocked down both free throws for its first points in nearly four minutes.
On the ensuing possession, Olafsdottir, wide open in the lane, pushed UTC’s lead back to seven points at 55-48. Titus, on a fast break, made her shot and drew the foul. She converted the 3-point play to get Mercer within four points, 55-51 with 5:01 to play, but that’s as close as it would get.
Jaron Dougherty made a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 1:28 to play to get the Bears’ to within five points at 65-60, but it would be their last points. UTC scored the final four points for the win.
UTC dominated the paint 42-24. That accounted for 61 percent of the Mocs points. Brooke Hampel had six of the Mocs 11 bench points compared to the Bears’ six. UTC had 12 second chance points on eight offensive rebounds while Mercer scored nine on 12 rebounds on their end.
Chattanooga shot 54.2 percent (26-48) from the field, 3-of-9 from the 3-point line and 14-of-21 from the charity stripe. UTC made 11-of-14 (78.6%) in the fourth quarter behind Dial’s 4-of-5 effort for a team-best eight points in the period.
Titus, who became the 27th Mercer player to reach 1,000 points, had a game-high 27 points and three steals before fouling out. Jada Lewis joined her in double figures with 10 points and dished out five assists. Dougherty just missed a double-double with nine points and a team-high 10 rebounds.
Mercer was 23-of-66 (34.8%) in the game and made just 3-of-14 from the 3-point line while connecting on 11-of-14 (78.6%) from the free throw line.
The Mocs remain on the road with back-to-back games at Wofford next week beginning Thursday, Feb. 4 at 7:00 p.m. Get all the links at GoMocs.com.