By Chris King, Chattanooga, Tenn. —
The women’s basketball team returned to their winning ways Friday night with a 53-48 overtime win over Southern Mississippi in the consolation round of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament (WNIT). The win comes after UTC dropped their first game of the season to Indiana on Tuesday.
“Winning the ugly games determines what kind of a season you have, it’s easy to win when you play pretty,” said head coach Jim Foster. “Tonight we figured out a way to win, that’s what good teams do. Good times figure out a way to win even when things aren’t going your way.”
Chattanooga was led by Jasmine Joyner, Southaven, Miss., who had 20 points on 3-6 shooting from three point range, and 8-17 shooting from the field. The junior forward also added 13 rebounds on the night. Sophomore Keiana Gilbert, Pulaski, Tenn., contributed to the team’s overtime win with 12 points and five rebounds.
“Jasmine has gotten better every year,” Foster said. “Obviously the dimension that we’ve added this year is that she’s a three-point shooter. As she stands now, she might be our best three-point shooter with Chelsey not playing at the moment. She has the willingness to step out and take that shot.”
The Mocs got off to a quick start by out-scoring Southern Mississippi 15-4 in the first quarter; thanks to Joyner who added 9 points in the quarter.
The second quarter was a different story. The Golden Eagles would go on a 7-0 run to cut the Mocs’ lead to 19-17 with 4:34 left in the quarter. Southern Mississippi would go on to outscore UTC 21-5 in the quarter to take a five-point lead into halftime.
The Golden Eagles continued their efficient play in the third quarter, jumping out to a 37-30 lead going into the fourth quarter due to a 5-12 shooting performance from the field.
“I feel like we just got too casual,” Joyner said. “We didn’t communicate at some points. We just automatically thought that people were going to come in and know who they were guarding, so I feel like our defense got too casual.”
In the fourth, the Mocs took a one point lead early that wiped away Southern Mississippi’s seven point advantage to begin the quarter. The Golden Eagles answered back with a made free throw however, to tie the game and force overtime.
“Coach talked to us, and we talked to each other,” Joyner said. “Coach told us we had to shoot the ball. When we’re not shooting well, that’s when we need one of us to go in and get an offensive rebound. And that’s how we were able to start getting fouled and getting put-backs, or getting another chance to reset.”
The Mocs outscored Southern Mississippi 9-4 in overtime. Chattanooga’s defense shined in the extra period by holding USM to 1-6 from the field, while converting on 3-7 field goal attempts themselve to claim their five-point win in the final game of the WNIT.
The win improves UTC’s record to 3-1 on the season, and with the University of Tennessee on Monday, the Mocs hope this close win will give them the necessary boost to come out on top in Knoxville.
“We have to get better in the two practices that we have, because it’s going to be tough playing there because of their fans,” said Joyner. ”They feel like just because they’re playing at home that they automatically have a win. So we have to play tough.”
*Header photo by Sara Serkownek