The shots from the field weren’t falling as well as they did Thursday night for the Mocs, but UTC took advantage of its many trips to the free throw line Saturday in a 72-58 win over Western Carolina in Southern Conference women’s basketball action at the Roundhouse.
UTC moves into a tie with Wofford for third at 7-4 in league play and improves to 12-8 overall while Western Carolina drops to 5-14 on the year and 2-7 in league play.
Chattanooga was 30-of-38 from the charity stripe, fourth best on its all-time list and the first time UTC has made that many since 2004. Bria Dial and Dena Jarrells each set career-bests with eight and Eboni Williams tied her season-high with six.
“Thirty-eight free throws. We were just really aggressive,” Mocs head coach Katie Burrows said. “They had a hard time with us in that respect. For the most part, we shot them well. I felt like we could have even done a little better in that respect. Obviously, you want to make them all.”
Chattanooga shot 58.3 percent from the field in the fourth quarter and was 19-of-45 overall (42.2%) and 4-of-13 from the 3-point line. The Catamounts edge the Mocs on field goal percentage making 22-of-51 (43.1%) and had seven 3-pointers, but were only able to get to the line 11 times for seven free throws.
The teams traded the lead early in the first quarter with UTC getting three points from Williams when she drew a foul on a layup. WCU’s Lauren LaPlant made the first of her two long range shots to tie it up. Williams again with the layup gave UTC a 5-3 lead, but Zonoria Cruz’ 3-pointer gave the Cats their only lead of the game at 6-5. The game tied up three times before UTC took the lead for good on a 3-pointer from Dial at the 2:32 mark of the opening frame.
Heading into the fourth quarter, the Mocs led 45-37. After Western Carolina cut it to five points twice at the start the period, UTC went on a 9-0 run to push the margin into double digits and would lead by as much as 18 with 3:06 to play.
The Catamounts’ Kyla Allison hit a layup to cut the Mocs’ lead to 47-42 with 8:24 in the final quarter. Jarrells stepped into a 3-pointer to put UTC up by eight just 20 seconds later. After a timeout, Cornelius entered double figures with a layup to give the Mocs’ a 10-point lead, 52-42, with 6:47 remaining. Jarrells and Dial combined for four straight free throws and UTC’s lead was 14, at 56-42 with 5:20 remaining.
Allison made a mid-range jumper to make it 56-44, but Williams connected on another 3-point play to give UTC a 59-44 lead at the 4:51 mark.
WCU put together a 5-0 run behind a pair of free throws from LaPlant and a 3-pointer from Cruz after an Allison steal to make it 59-49 with 4:09 remaining.
Chattanooga responded with an 8-0 run that started with a layup from Williams. Jarrells stole the inbounds pass and was fouled on her layup attempt. WCU’s head coach Kiley Hill was upset that a call may have been missed on the previous play and his arguing led to a technical.
Jarrells made both of her shots on the foul call then made both free throws for the technical. Western Carolina turned the ball over and Sigrun Olafsdottir darted down the lane to cap off the run and give UTC a 67-49 lead, its largest, with 3:06 on the clock.
Allison made seven of the Cats’ final nine points, but it would be enough as the Mocs held on to claim their first series win this season.
Williams led Chattanooga with 22 points and nine rebounds and made three swipes. Bria Dial, with three from the 3-point line, added 17 points. She had a career-high four blocked shots on the night and moved ahead of Taylor Hall for seventh all-time at UTC with 80 over her four years.
Abbey Cornelius also moved up the list, adding two more blocked shots for 88 all-time. She is tied with Keiana Gilbert for fifth at Chattanooga. Cornelius chipped in 12 points for the Mocs with six rebounds and three assists.
The fourth player in double digits for UTC was Jarrells who scored 11 of her 13 points in the fourth quarter.
Allison led all scorers with 23 points for the Catamounts and four assists and three steals. Joining her in double digits was LaPlant with 13. Cruz added eight with five rebounds, three assists and two steals while Tembre Moates, with six points, and Joi Reid each had a team-best six rebounds.
The Mocs converted 23 Catamount miscues into 17 points and gave up 13 on their own 15 turnovers. Western Carolina edged UTC on rebounds 29-27 but were able to score just three points on nine offensive boards. UTC had nine on seven offensive rebounds.
The Mocs remain home to host UNCG next weekend with a Friday night matchup and a Sunday afternoon tilt.