By Parris Clarke, Assistant Sports Editor-
The UTC Women’s basketball season has come to an end after losing to the Furman Paladins by a score of 58-40 Thursday, in the first round of the Southern Conference tournament.
This loss sees the end of the 2020-2021 season for UTC, after what looked to be a promising season and deep tournament run.
The Lady Mocs couldn’t have picked a worse time to go cold. They shot 30.9 percent from the field and a putrid 1-of-18, or 5.6 percent, from the three-point line. Their 40 total points were the fewest points for a UTC team dating back to 2019.
Their defense, on the other hand, was up to par. The 58 points they held Furman to are well under UTC’s average points allowed for the season of 62.3 points.
“We gave ourselves a chance with the way we played defense, but our offense just couldn’t connect,” said head coach Katie Burrows.
The Lady Mocs were down 13-6 at the end of the first quarter. Furman came out in the second quarter on a 9-0 run, pinning a 22-6 deficit for UTC to try and overcome.
It took until the end of the third quarter for the Lady Mocs to scratch and claw their way back into the game. They cut the margin to just seven with a score of 34-27. That would be UTC’s last stand, as Furman closed out the game on a 24-13 run led by their star forward Tierra Hodges. She finished the game with 16 points and 15 rebounds.
“My biggest frustration is we didn’t punch back when they hit us hard,” said Burrows.
Burrows frustration is not isolated for just this one game. This has been a theme throughout the year for this UTC team.
It’s important to note that this season should not be considered a failure — any season completed safely during a pandemic deserves praise. However, it’s fair to file it away as underwhelming.
The Lady Mocs captured the three-seed in the SoCon this year, during a season that saw the top three teams separated by two games. It wouldn’t have been a stretch to have claimed that UTC was the best team going into the tournament. But as impressive as some of their wins were, too many times they were followed up by duds, prohibiting them from getting into a groove during the regular season.
They repeatedly beat Samford and Mercer, the upper echelon of teams, in convincing ways this season. They proved how high their potential was during these wins, but at the same time, they continued to drop games against, UNC Greensboro, Wofford, and Furman — the bottom half of the conference.
As the old sports saying goes, a team is only as good as its worst player. In UTC’s case, they were only as good as their worst game. The Lady Mocs may have had a really high ceiling this season, but they failed to continue to raise the floor on their game.
The key for Burrows and the Lady Mocs going into next season will be to find that sweet spot of consistency. Knowing who you are and what to expect from your team night in and night out is crucial for success.
The good thing for UTC is that Bria Dial is the lone rotation player that they will be losing due to graduation. Dial was the second-leading scorer on the team at 11.8 points per game, but with an entire offseason under their belts, the Lady Mocs should be able to slide in someone to match her production.
With the majority of the roster returning next year that means it’s going to be now or never for the Lady Mocs. Their continuity will surely benefit their standings, but it’s finding consistency that will carry them to their ultimate goals.