UTC guard Aryanna Gilbert (35) shoots after a rebound during the UTC-UT Martin womens basketball game at Mckenzie Arena on December 2, 2017. Gilbert would finish the game with 25 points, earning her College Sports Madness Player of the week (Photo by Troy Stolt).

By Cameron Wood, Staff Writer —

Following their win over Samford on Saturday, the Mocs women’s basketball team finished their regular season at 17-11 overall and 8-6 in the SoCon. That proves good enough for the third place heading into the Southern Conference tournament.

Head Coach Jim Foster said that he is ready for the tournament.

“We’re very much alive and packing for four days and going up there with an attitude,” said Foster. “Looking forward to it.”

The Mocs will open up the conference tournament on Thursday against UNC-Greensboro. Both meetings between the two teams in the regular season were taken by the Mocs, a good sign entering the matchup.

Senior guard Aryanna Gilbert, Pulaski, Tennessee, had double-digit points in both games against the Spartans. With her sister, Mocs’ leading scorer Keiana Gilbert, Pulaski, Tennessee, possibly out with an ankle injury, her scoring could be even more crucial.

The spreading out of scoring was evident as Aryanna Gilbert, Lakelyn Bouldin, Spencer, Tennessee, and Brooke Burns, Gadsden, Alabama all scored double-digits in the regular season finale.

The players to look out for in the matchup against UNCG would be the dual scoring threat of Nadine Soliman and Ije Ajemba. Those two have combined to average almost 26 points per game for the Spartans this season.

The biggest threats to the Mocs chances at winning the SoCon tournament for the fifth straight season will be ETSU and Mercer. The Bucs finished 11-3 in conference (18-3 overall), taking both games off the Mocs. Mercer won the SoCon regular season, going undefeated in SoCon play with a 14-0 record, and finishing the regular season at 27-2 overall.

The player to watch if the Mocs face ETSU would be Tianna Tarter, who torched the Mocs for 27 when ETSU came to Chattanooga and beat the Mocs 61-55.

The greatest test for the Mocs would certainly be the Mercer Bears, who last week cracked into the Top 25 Coaches Poll for the first time in their history. The Bears are paced offensively by the top scorer in the SoCon, two-time SoCon Player of the Year Kahlia Lawrence, who averages 18.6 points per game. The Bears have also gotten help offensively from junior KeKe Calloway who contributes only slightly less, at 17.3 points a game.

The Mocs best bet at winning the conference tournament will not come on the offensive end. All season the Mocs have been reliant on their defensive discipline to win games. The Mocs lead the conference in key defensive categories such as blocks (4.1 per game) and opponent’s field goal percentage (38.3 percent per game). They also are second in a number of categories including, opponent’s 3-point field goal percentage (28.7 percent) and points allowed (56.1 per game). They’ll hope to continue this into the tournament.

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