BIRMINGHAM, Ala. --- Three University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball players combined for 36 points and held off a second half Samford charge to get a 66-60 win over the Bulldogs Wednesday night at the Pete Hanna Center.
The Lady Mocs improve to 15-3 on the year and take over sole possession of first place in the Southern Conference at 8-1 as Elon (7-1) did not play tonight. Samford evens out its record at 9-9 overall and 6-3 in league play.
Junior Ashlen Dewart had a team-high 14 points for the Lady Mocs with senior Kayla Christopher (Oliver Springs, Tenn.) and junior Taylor Hall (New Tazewell, Tenn.) each tossing in 12 points. Dewart was 5-of-14 on the night making eight of Chattanooga's final 11 points and was 4-for-4 from the free throw line in that stretch.
Hall was 5-for-10 from the floor and 2-of-3 from beyond the arc with two rebounds. Christopher moved into 18th place at UTC with 1,183 career points. She had six rebounds, five assists and three steals and has scored in double figures in four straight games.
The Lady Mocs got control of the ball to start the game and Hall took advantage sinking the first of her two 3-pointers. She and junior Meghan Downes (Newnan, Ga.) each drained the next two to make it 9-0 and Chattanooga was off to a 15-0 start.
Jazmine Martin, who had 22 second half points, led the Bulldogs on a 7-2 run over the next 4:23 and Samford would get as close as 22-14 at the 4:47 mark of the half on a 3-pointer from Hannah Dawson. After the Lady Mocs got up 30-16 with six straight points, the Bulldogs closed out the first half with a 3-pointer from Dawson in the corner to make it a 30-19 advantage for UTC at intermission.
Samford came out strong to start the second half and went on a 13-4 run over the first 3:23 to cut Chattanooga's lead down to 34-32 with 16:37 to play. The two teams traded points over the next four minutes and the Bulldogs remained just two points behind at 38-36 with 12:11 to play.
After a pair of Samford free throws, UTC's Ka'Vonne Towns (Lilburn, Ga.) drained a 3-pointer sparking an 11-2 Chattanooga run capped off by a layup from junior Faith Dupree (Knoxville, Tenn.) to put the Lady Mocs up 49-38 with 9:36 to play. However, Chattanooga would only see a double-digit lead once more in the half and Samford would get as close as two points three times more.
Over the final three minutes, Chattanooga would score eight points and allow just four to the Bulldogs for the 66-60 margin.
Martin scored a game-high 31 points for Samford and Hannah Dawson recorded a double-double with 11 points and a game-high 12 rebounds along with four assists and two steals.
Chattanooga freshman Tatianna Jackson (Atlanta, Ga.) playing a career-best 26 minutes, just missed a double-double of her own with nine points and led UTC with a career-high nine boards while dishing out two assists and grabbing three steals.
Downes, making her second career start, had seven points and two rebounds in 17 minutes. She started in place of senior Kylie Lambert (Etowah, Tenn.) who was unable to play.
Chattanooga led wire-to-wire and outrebounded Samford 32-28, allowing the Bulldogs just two offensive boards to UTC's 12. That led to a 9-3 advantage in second chance points. The Lady Mocs had eight fast break points to none for Samford and the bench outscored SU 17-9. In the paint, Chattanooga outdid Samford 34-20 and scored 17 points off 23 Bulldog turnovers.
The Lady Mocs will return home for a brief spell to take on Appalachian State Saturday at 6 p.m. at the McKenzie Arena. Tickets are available at the McKenzie Arena box office (423-266-6627) or online at GoMocs.com. The Mountaineers, defending Southern Conference champions, are 12-3 overall and 6-1 in league play.