ASHEVILLE, N.C. --- After falling behind by as many as 13 points, the Mocs rallied beating Mercer, 61-59, to win their 15th straight Southern Conference tournament game.
UTC improved to 21-10 while Mercer fell to 25-6.
This is the Mocs SoCon record fifth title in a row and 18th overall.
UTC is now 18-0 in SoCon Tournament finals.
Head coach Jim Foster is 12-0 in SoCon Tournament games.
Chattanooga advances to the NCAA Tournament for the 15th time in school history.
Details are from Mocs' press release
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women’s basketball team overcame a 13-point second half deficit against Mercer to claim its 18th Southern Conference Tournament title and fifth straight Sunday afternoon at the U.S. Cellular Center in a nail-biter to the finish.
A last second shot by Mercer’s Linnea Rosendal bounced off the back of the rim and over the front, dashing the Bears’ hope of an upset.
“When I saw it take the second bounce, I thought it was coming my way instead of the opposite,” Chattanooga head coach Jim Foster said. “So I felt pretty good about that.”
Mercer’s KeKe Calloway buried a 3-pointer for the Bears’ largest lead of the game, 45-32 with 2:32 to play in the third quarter. Chattanooga’s Queen Alford (Decatur, Ga.) hit two free throws to close out the period, cutting the lead to 48-38.
Alford started off the fourth with the Mocs’ first five points, making it a 48-43 game less than a minute into the final frame. Rachel Selph’s layup stretched the Bears’ lead to seven points, 50-43.
UTC’s Jasmine Joyner (Southaven, Miss.) returned the favor with a 3-pointer from the middle, sparking a 15-2 run that gave Chattanooga its first lead since the middle of the second quarter, 58-52 with 2:16 to play.
Mercer’s Kahlia Lawrence put in a 3-pointer to cut the lead in half, 58-55 at the 1:51 mark. Lawrence made the second of two free throws with just under a minute to play to make it a 58-56 game.
Junior Chelsey Shumpert (Paducah, Ky.) toed the line with 22.2 seconds on the clock to give the Mocs a 60-56 lead, but the Bears’ responded with a Calloway 3-pointer with 16.1 seconds to play, making it a 60-59 nailbiter.
Mercer forced a Mocs’ turnover, but Lawrence’s layup on the right side fell short and Joyner was fouled on the rebound. She, however, connected on just one of the two shots, keeping the contest tight and fans on the edge of their seats.
With just three seconds on the clock and Chattanooga leading 61-59, Mercer raced down the court and Rosendal’s shot from the right side missed to give the Mocs’ their fifth straight SoCon Tournament title and 18th since 1984.
“We became tougher [throughout the season].” Foster said. “We did not start this game well, and we did not play well for a long time, and [Mercer] played very well. But when we made a basket or two and changed defenses, it energized us. You could see it, and you feel it. The baskets started to come after that.”
Chattanooga was 10-of-15 (66.7%) in the last 12:32 of the game and limited Mercer to 4-of-16 (25%) over the same time frame. The Bears’ were 2-of-10 from inside the arc.
Joyner led four Chattanooga players in double figures with her 15th double-double of the year. She had 17 points and 15 rebounds and tied her career-high for assists with four. Alford and freshman Lakelyn Bouldin (Spencer, Tenn.) had 13 apiece. Bouldin was 6-of-12 from the field with a 3-pointer and three rebounds and Alford was 4-of-5 for the day with a pair from beyond the arc. Junior Aryanna Gilbert (Pulaski, Tenn.) had 11 points, five rebounds, three steals and all three of Chattanooga’s blocked shots.
Alford (11 points) and Gilbert combined for 17 of the Mocs’ 23 fourth quarter points, making 7-of-8 from the field.
“Queen is an energy force for us off the bench,” Foster said. “She brings a little extra juice for us. When she gets on fire, you keep going her way. She felt it, and you could sense it. They players sensed it and she came up with some big baskets. She was ready.”
Calloway led all scorers with 25 points, tying a SoCon Tournament record with seven 3-pointers. She had four steals and two assists in 24 minutes off the bench. Lawrence was 8-of-22 from the field with two 3-pointers for 22 points to go along with three rebounds. Amanda Thompson had a team-high 10 rebounds, grabbing six on the offensive end.
Chattanooga dominated the paint 34-14 and had 13 points off 10 Mercer turnovers. The Bears has 12 second chance points compared to the Mocs’ 10 and after 15 first half fastbreak points, Mercer had none in the second half. Calloway had 25 of the Bears’ 27 bench points and Chattanooga had 16.
The win was the Mocs’ third against Mercer this season and fifth straight.
The Mocs will learn its fate Monday, March 13 on Selection Show Monday. The show will air at 7 p.m. Chattanooga will gather at Pin Strikes for a selection show party. Check back with GoMocs.com for details.
Tianna Tarter, ETSU
KeKe Calloway, Mercer
Kahlia Lawrence, Mercer
Sydni Means, Mercer
Jasmine Joyner, Chattanooga
Cierra Carter, Furman
Mangela Ngandjui, UNCG
Nadine Soliman, UNCG
Lakelyn Bouldin, Chattanooga
Chelsey Shumpert, Chattanooga
Jasmine Joyner, Chattanooga (Second time MVP. 2015, 2017)
Player from championship team with highest GPA
Ansley Chilton, Chattanooga