MORAGA, Calif. --- The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women’s basketball team’s comeback attempt against Saint Mary’s (CA) College fell short in the final game of the Gael’s Concord Hilton Thanksgiving Classic.
The loss was Chattanooga’s first on the year after making a 4-0 run to start the season. UTC is now 4-1 overall and will open Southern Conference play hosting Wofford Thursday, November 29 at the Roundhouse.
Lady Mocs senior Kayla Christopher (Oliver Springs, Tenn.) started the game making six of her first attempts including four 3-pointers and ended the game with a season-high 27 points and a career-best seven shots from beyond the arc, second most in school history. She now has 178 on the year. Christopher was named to the All-Tournament team for her effort.
Chattanooga held a four-point lead throughout most of the first half getting up as much as six, but saw it slip away in the waning minutes of the opening period behind four points from Jackie Nared to cut the lead to two and a layup from Carli Rosenthal tied it 18-18 at the 5:56 mark.
Christopher made two of her four first-half 3-pointers to put Chattanooga up 24-20 with 4:49 to play in the opening frame, but Nared responded with two of her own and the Gaels took the lead for good 26-24 at the 2:30 mark and would lead 30-26 at the break.
Saint Mary’s Nared capped off a second half 17-5 run with a layup to give the Gaels their largest lead of the game, 47-31, with 15:55 to play. The Lady Mocs responded behind five points from Christopher to cut the lead to eight, 51-43, at the 11:30 mark of the half.
The Gaels would continue to push its lead back to double digits despite offensive pressure from the Lady Mocs over the next seven minutes. However, Chattanooga finally cracked the defense and pulled to within one point, 68-67 on a 3-pointer from Christopher, capping off a 14-5 run from UTC in the closing stages.
Chattanooga tried to strategize its way back into the game by fouling SMC’s Morgan Hatten. She would hit the second of her two free throws to put the Gaels up 69-67 with 17 seconds to play. Chattanooga got the ball back on the possession change and ran the floor. Freshman Tatianna Jackson (Atlanta, Ga.) missed a 3-point attempt and junior Alex Black (Memphis, Tenn.) was on hand to grab the offensive board. Her quick put back hit off the front of the rim and back into her hands, but an errant pass to Jackson went out of bounds.
UTC put Nared, who was 7-of-7 from the charity stripe for the game, at the free throw line and she would only hit one of her two shots, but with 2.1 seconds on the clock, Chattanooga couldn’t get down the court for a shot and fell for the first time this season.
Christopher closed out the game with 27 points, making 10-of-14 from the field and 7-of-10 from the 3-point line. She had two rebounds, two assists and a pair of steals in 27 minutes of play. Junior Taylor Hall (New Tazewell, Tenn.) had 12 points, four rebounds and three steals. Sophomore Ka’Vonne Towns (Lilburn, Ga.) matched her career-highs with 11 points and six rebounds. She was 3-of-4 from beyond the arc and made two of her four free throw attempts.
Senior Kylie Lambert (Etowah, Tenn.) and junior Alex Black (Memphis, Tenn.) each had six rebounds and combined for nine of Chattanooga 14 assists. Chattanooga forced the Gaels into 15 miscues that resulted in 16 points off turnovers and their 17 offensive rebounds translated into 17 second chance points. The Lady Mocs got 23 points from the bench compared to Saint Mary’s 19 while the Gaels outscored UTC in the paint 16-12.
Chattanooga will open the Southern Conference season Thursday at the McKenzie Arena. Tickets are on sale at the McKenzie Arena box office. Call 423-425-MOCS (6627) or log ontowww.GoMocs.com for more information.