Chattanooga’s Mocs played pretty good basketball for the first three quarters of Thursday night’s Southern Conference clash with league-leading Samford, but it was a dismal performance in the final 10 minutes that spelled the difference.
The Bulldogs had a precarious 50-49 lead to start the final quarter, but the Mocs couldn’t hit the ocean from the end of a pier as they only hit one field goal in that stretch as Samford pulled away for a 71-60 victory.
Both Samford and UTC have identical 7-6 overall records, but the Bulldogs remain tied for first place in league standings with a 4-0 while Chattanooga is now 2-2. Wofford is tied with Samford at the top at 4-0 after a 65-45 victory over Western Carolina on Thursday night.
Andrea Cournoyer, a scrappy 5-4 junior who entered the game as Samford’s leading scorer at just below 15 points per game, had that many in the first half en route to a game-high 26 as the Bulldogs had four players in double figures.
UTC coach Katie Burrows felt like Cournoyer’s performance may have been the difference in the game.
“She just lit us up as we let her get hot early. We have to keep the ball out of her hands, but we just didn’t get the defensive stops when we needed to and that blown coverage is really frustrating,” Burrows said to Larry Ward during his post-game radio show.
“We just couldn’t put the ball in the hole late and they’re defense was set up just daring us to shoot another 3. I thought we did a nice job of getting the ball inside early, but we just didn’t get it done when it counted. We’ll try again on Saturday,” Burrows concluded.
The Bulldogs, who finished the game by hitting 26 of 60 field goals, were on fire early as they hit six of their first eight shots, including five of seven from long range as they built a 25-16 lead when the first quarter ended.
With Cournoyer hitting her fourth 3 at the 5:55 mark of the second stanza, Samford’s lead was 32-24.
The Mocs responded with a 7-0 run in the next minute, including a 3 from Dena Jarrells and two-point buckets from Abbey Cornelius and Eboni Williams to make it 32-31 with 4:41 left before intermission, but Chattanooga didn’t score the rest of the quarter as the Lady Bulldogs finished the half on a 10-0 run for a 42-31 lead at the break.
The Mocs started the second half with another run of 10 straight points to get within one at 42-41 with 6:07 showing after Sigrun Olafsdottir scored on a drive along the baseline before Samford regained the momentum with six straight points for a 48-41 lead with 2:53 left in the third.
The Mocs then scored the next eight points and had their first lead at 49-48 with 36 seconds remaining following a steal and layup by Williams, but Natalie Armstrong sank a short jumper from the baseline late to give Samford a 50-49 lead with 10 minutes to play.
Two free throws by Bria Dial with 7:09 to play gave the Mocs their last lead at 51-50. Chattanooga did hit seven of its next eight free throws for their only points of the quarter until Williams scored on a putback in the final minute, cutting the final margin to 11 points.
The Mocs hit 23 of 65 shots from the field for 35.4 percent, but only one of 17 in the final stanza when the game was on the line.
While Cournoyer topped the Lady Bulldogs with her 26 points, Raven Omar followed with 14. Annie Ramil and Armstrong both finished with 10 points apiece.
Freshman Mallory Hampton, who was an All-State performer at Rhea County last year, finished with nine points after hitting all three of her shots from long range.
Cornelius had one of her best games of the season and finished with a double-double, leading the Mocs in scoring with 18 points and in rebounds with 15.
Williams also had a double-double with 10 points and 13 boards while Dial was limited to just nine points on three of 10 from the field that included only one of six from long range.
Jarrells and Olafsdottir were next with nine and eight points, respectively.
With Cornelius and Williams controlling the glass, the Mocs had a 39-38 edge in rebounds. Ramil had a dozen to lead the Bulldogs.
These same two teams will play on Saturday with the tipoff set for 5 p.m. It will be the second game that day at McKenzie as the UTC men clash with North Carolina-Greensboro at noon.
SAMFORD 25 17 8 21 -- 71
CHATTANOOGA 16 15 18 11 -- 60
SAMFORD (71) – Ramil 10, Armstrong 10, Cournoyer 26, Hampton 9, Omar 14, Leipold 2, Woolard, Allen.
CHATTANOOGA (60) – Williams 10, Cornelius 18, Olafsdottir 8, Dial 9, Pugh, Hill 4, Jarrells 9, Searcy 2, Hampel.
FIELD GOALS: Samford 26 of 60 for 43.3 percent; Chattanooga 23 of 65 for 35.4 percent.
FREE THROWS: Samford 10 of 10 for 100 percent; Chattanooga 9 of 10 for 90 percent.
3-POINT GOALS: Samford 9 of 22 for 40.9 percent (Armstrong 0-3, Cournoyer 5-13, Hampton 3-3, Omar 1-3); Chattanooga 5 of 25 for 20 percent (Williams 0-1, Cornelius 0-1, Olafsdottir 1-4, Dial 1-6, Hill 0-4, Jarrells 3-9).
REBOUNDS: Samford 38 (Ramil 12, Armstrong 6, Cournoyer 5); Chattanooga 39 (Williams 13, Cornelius 15).
ASSISTS: Samford 15 (Cournoyer 5, Omar 4); Chattanooga 17 (Olafsdottir 7, Jarrells 6).
TURNOVERS: Samford 17 (Armstrong 4, Cournoyer 4, Leipold 3); Chattanooga 14 (Jarrells 4, Williams 3, Olafsdottir 3).
STEALS: Samford 10 (Cournoyer 4, Ramil 2, Omar 2); Chattanooga 5 (Williams 3).
BLOCKS: Samford 4 (Armstrong 3); Chattanooga 3 (Cornelius, Olafsdottir, Hill).
(Email John Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org)