CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. --- The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball team knocked off No. 20 Tennessee for arguably its biggest regular season win, prompting the student section to empty out and storm the court to celebrate. The Lady Mocs outscored the Lady Vols 52-43 in the second half for an 80-71 win in front of 8,468 fans in the season-opener for both teams, at the McKenzie Arena Friday night.
The game was the head coaching debut for Tennessee's (0-1) Holly Warlick who took over after the retirement last season of legendary head coach Pat Summitt (1974-2012) who was in attendance for the matchup.
Chattanooga (1-0) started the second half making 6-of-7 from the field, led by junior Taylor Hall's (New Tazewell, Tenn.) back-to-back 3-pointers to put the Lady Mocs up 34-29. Classmates Faith Dupree (Knoxville, Tenn.), Alex Black (Memphis, Tenn.) and Ashlen Dewart (Spartanburg, S.C.) joined in to put Chattanooga up 43-35 less than four minutes into the half.
Tennessee's Meighan Simmons, who had just two points in the first half, pushed to get her team back into the game with back-to-back layups, cutting UTC's lead to 43-39 at the 15:04 mark. Hall responded with a put back followed by a crushing 3-pointer from senior Kayla Christopher (Oliver Springs, Tenn.). That brought the crowd to its feet and put UTC up 48-39 with 12:55 to play.
Simmons again stepped up, hitting a trey of her own. However, the Lady Mocs got the next five points with a layup from Dupree and a jumper from Black to give UTC its first double-digit lead of the game at 52-42 with 11:37 to play.
Tennessee would get no closer than six the remainder of the game as Chattanooga's defense never let up. The Lady Mocs forced 26 UTK miscues, resulting in 27 points. The two teams were evenly matched in the paint with each getting 34 points while the Knoxville school outrebounded UTC 53-31 with 22 offensive boards.
Simmons put together a 3-point play, drawing a foul on a layup to make it 59-52 at the 6:23 mark. Hall responded with a put-back on a missed jumper. She followed that with a defensive rebound then went coast-to-coast for a layup and drew the foul to convert an old-fashioned 3-point play, giving UTC a 64-52 lead at the 5:38 mark.
Chattanooga was not complacent with its lead, however. Tennessee continued to fight back with five straight points from Simmons, who had 21 in the second half, to make it 64-57 less than a minute later.
Christopher responded with a jumper. After a pair of free throws from UT's Isabelle Harrison, senior Kylie Lambert (Etowah, Tenn.) scored on a break-away a layup on a long pass from Dewart. That put the Lady Mocs lead back to double digits at 70-59 with 2:31 to play.
Chattanooga's lead fell back to just seven points, 72-65, with 1:11 to play, but the Lady Mocs were able to convert all eight free throws to finish the game to go to 1-0 on the year.
The high-scoring game started slow with Chattanooga getting the first two points from Black a minute-and-a-half into the game. It would be nearly 2:30 before Tennessee tied it 2-2 on a jumper from Cierra Burdick. Chattanooga led at the start of the half, but a push from Tennessee got the Lady Vols out front by as much as nine points with 7:47 to go in the opening stanza.
The Lady Mocs went on a 14-0 run, however, over the next 5:37 to take a 24-20 lead, their largest of the half. With Chattanooga leading 28-25 as the half neared, Ariel Massengale dropped in a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to knot it up at the half.
Hall led all scorers with career-high tying 24 points, including 15 in the second half and just missed a double-double with nine rebounds. She had career-best in both assists (5) and steals with four. She was 9-of-12 from the field and 3-for-5 from beyond the arc. Black had 14 points for UTC with a pair of 3-pointers and two assists. Christopher was the third Chattanooga player in double figures with 11 points, sinking all four of her free throw attempts and dishing out three assists.
The Lady Mocs shot 56.3 percent (18-of-32) in the second half and was 7-of-19 from the 3-point line.
Tennessee was led in scoring by Simmons with 23 points. She was 9-of-25 from the floor and 1-of-8 from the 3-point line while making four of her five free throw attempts. She had three assists, four turnovers and three steals. Isabelle Harrison recorded a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds, eight off the offensive glass. Bashaara Graves was the third Tennessee player in double figures with 14 points and missed out on a double-double with eight rebounds.
UTK was 24-of-63 from the field and got 25 points from its bench. From the 3-point line, the Lady Vols were 3-of-16 and went 20-of-29 from the charity stripe.
The Lady Mocs return to action on the road Wednesday, November 14 when they head to Nashville to take on Belmont at the Curb Event Center. The game is slated to tip at 7 p.m. EST.