MORAGA, Calif. --- After getting off to a slow start behind the steady play of first-time starter junior Ashlen Dewart (Spartanburg, S.C.) the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball team came away with a 68-59 win over Portland State in the opening game of the St. Mary's Hilton Concord Thanksgiving Classic at McKeon Pavilion.
The Lady Mocs improve to 4-0 on the year, their best start since the 1999-2000 season when UTC started the season at 4-0 in Head Coach Wes Moore's second season. Portland State falls to 3-1 on the year.
Dewart kept Chattanooga in the game scoring 13 of Chattanooga's first 15 points just over halfway through the opening stanza. Dewart's first layup tied the game in the opening minute at 2-2 but the Vikings scored the next six to get an 8-2 lead at the 17:48 mark. Dewart and Portland State traded buckets over the next couple of minutes before a couple of free throws put the Vikings up 16-8 with 14:42 to play in the first.
Dewart and sophomore Ka'Vonne Towns (Lilburn, Ga.) combined on a 6-0 run to cut the lead to just two, 16-14 at the 10:22 mark of the first. Dewart would get one more point in the half, but it would be senior Kylie Lambert down the stretch with 12 points behind a pair of 3-pointers and 6-of-8 shooting from the charity stripe.
Chattanooga took the lead for good on Lambert's final free throw of the period and solidified it with a layup from Towns to make it 35-32 at the break.
The Lady Mocs started the second half on a 17-7 run to take a 52-39 lead with 13:05 to play. Portland State would only get as close as eight points twice more in the contest. Dewart added 10 second half points to end up with a game-high 23 points. That is a season-high for the transfer, the most she has scored at UTC and one point shy of the most points scored in a game by a UTC player this season. Junior Taylor Hall (New Tazewell, Tenn.) and junior Meghan Downes (Newnan, Ga.) have each tossed in 24 points for the Lady Mocs.
Lambert added six to her total and posted a double-double for the first time this season and the fifth of her career with 18 points and 10 boards. She also added a career-high five steals in the game and was 10-of-12 from the free throw line, a career-best effort.
Senior Kayla Christopher became the 25th member of the Lady Mocs' 1,000-Point Club Friday with eight points and was 2-of-4 from beyond the arc to move to fourth place all-time on the UTC women's basketball all-time 3-pointers made list with 171, surpassing Miranda Warfield for the spot. She had a season-high five assists on the day and recorded two steals.
Chattanooga outscored Portland State in the paint 24-12 and held a 20-11 advantage on points off turnovers forcing 26 by the Vikings. The Lady Mocs were outrebounded 40-39 but pulled down 16 offensive boards that translated into 17 second chance points. The Lady Mocs recorded 19 steals, the most since getting 15 against Wofford on December 9, 2009. Towns and Hall each snared four steals apiece.
Chattanooga shot 34.9 percent for the game after shooting 40 percent in the first half and was 4-of-19 from the 3-point line while making 20-of-27 free throws.
Portland State shot 42 percent for the game (21-50) and was 5-of-12 from beyond the line while making 12-of-16 from the charity stripe.
Portland State had three players in double figures led by Kate Lanz with 11 points and eight rebounds. Angela Misa nearly had a double-double in the second half, scored all 10 of her points in the latter stanza for 10 points and 14 boards. Allison Greene added 10 points in the effort.
Chattanooga will face host St. Mary's on Saturday at 5 p.m. Eastern Time. The game will be carried live on Cat Country 95.3 FM. Live stats, video streaming and streaming audio will be available at GoMocs.com.