KNOXVILLE, Tenn. --- University of Tennessee at Chattanooga senior Faith Dupree (Knoxville, Tenn.) took a handoff from junior Ka’Vonne Towns (Lilburn, Ga.) on the perimeter as time was winding down in the first half. Towns slipped past her defender and Dupree sent her a backdoor pass as she drove toward the bucket. With one defender in her way, Towns deeked to her left and put the layup in with her right and knotted up the contest 32-32 with 13 seconds on the clock.
That score would stand at the half, much the same as halftime last season at the Roundhouse when the two went into the break tied 28-28. However, the second half Thursday night at Thompson-Boling Arena was much different. The Lady Mocs dropped to 1-1 on the year with an 80-56 loss to the fourth-ranked University of Tennessee. The Lady Vols improve to 3-0 on the year.
Chattanooga executed good ball control and tempo in the first half and pulled out to a 16-9 lead at the 11:00 mark of the first half. However, over the next 5:29, UTK outscored the Lady Mocs 13-2 and pulled ahead 22-18, its largest lead of the half. UTC battled back and the game tied three more times over the period and Chattanooga’s 14-10 advantage over the final 5:31, tied the game at intermission.
In the second half, the Lady Vols stepped up their offense and went on a 21-4 run over the first 6:08 of the half led by 10 points from Ariel Massengale who had a game-high 16 points.
“We had her play downhill and she’s too good,” UTC head coach said of Massengale. “East/west we were much more effective, but when she goes north/south, she gets better.”
Over the next four minutes, the Lady Mocs held even with UTK getting a trio of 3-pointers from three different players, but Chattanooga couldn’t chip away at the lead that continued to grow.
“We weren’t our best in the second half,” Foster said. “We didn’t step up to meet them. The ball moved very well in the first half and not very well at all in the second half.”
Senior Ashlen Dewart (Spartanburg, S.C.) was 2-of-5 from the 3-point line, her first treys since arriving at UTC, and had a team-high 13 points along with six rebounds. Classmate Taylor Hall (New Tazewell, Tenn.) had 12 for UTC with a team-best eight rebounds, four assists and three steals. Dupree scored 11 points against her former team making 2-of-5 from beyond the arc. Sophomore Alicia Payne (Memphis, Tenn.) had foul trouble late and exited the game with four assists.
Chattanooga shot 40.7 percent in the first half but made just 8-of-35 in the second (22.9%). However, the bright spot was a 10-of-24 (41.7%) effort from the 3-point line.
The Lady Vols were led by Massengale who made 4-of-5 from beyond the arc and dished out five assists, while top recruit Mercedes Russell had 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting. Joining them in double-figures were Bashaara Graves with 11 points and seven boards and Meighan Simmons with 10 points, three assists and two steals.
The players from the Knoxville campus shot 48.5 percent for the game and 53.8 percent (7-of-13) from the 3-point line. UTK outscored UTC 40-12 in the paint, 15-6 off turnovers, 18-6 off second chance points and 37-20 in bench points.
Chattanooga forced 18 turnovers but gave up 16 of its own and had eight steals to UTK’s five. The Lady Vols outrebounded UTC 50-33 with a slight 18-16 advantage on the offensive glass.
Chattanooga returns to action Sunday afternoon at McKenzie Arena. The Lady Mocs will host Belmont in a 2 p.m. matchup. Tickets are on sale at the McKenzie Arena box office by calling 423-266-6627 (MOC S) or go online at GoMocs.com.