Chattanooga, Tenn.– The women’s basketball team fell 79-31 to the No. 1-ranked UConn Huskies Monday night in front of the seventh-largest crowd in school history. Junior Jasmine Joyner, Southaven, Miss., and sophomore Keiana Gilbert, Pulaski, Tenn., tied for a team-high eight points for UTC. While UConn star Breanna Stewart totaled 14 points with four blocks.
With the most highly anticipated game of their schedule out of the way, here’s some takeaways for the Mocs moving forward.
Greatest of All-Time?
There’s little for Chattanooga to hang their heads about, as they were facing arguably the best women’s collegiate team of all-time.
Everyone knows about Stewart, (who seems to be a lock for the No. 1 pick in the WNBA Draft in April) but it was the team around her that shined Monday night.
The Huskies racked up 23 assists compared to 14 turnovers, but it was their defense that never let the Mocs into the game.
“Because we have so much more depth I think we just wore them down,” 10-time NCAA champion and UConn head coach Geno Auriemma said. “They had a hard time getting the shots that they wanted and that’s just the kind of players that we have. When you play like we played defensively it’s hard to play against us no matter who it is.”
Front court failures
One glaring note when viewing UTC’s lineup is their thinness in the forward and center positions.
With Joyner being the tallest player in the starting lineup at six-foot-two, the Mocs are relying heavily on Sydney Vanlandingham, Hermitage, Tenn., and Ansley Chilton, Trenton, Ga., to come off the bench and help defend the basket.
Unfortunately, coaches like UConn’s Geno Auriemma are paid well to find and exploit those weaknesses, and that’s exactly what the Huskies did in their win Monday night, scoring an eye-opening 56 points in the paint. Something that wasn’t a surprise to UTC head coach Jim Foster.
“They’re a big strong team,” Foster said. “They’re a disciplined team and they take advantage of their opportunities…we let people get too deep (in the paint) and they’re size takes over when they’re too deep.
To keep their centerpiece fresh and healthy throughout the season, Vanlandingham and Chilton will need to begin stepping up with their added minutes in the rotation.
Joyner needed just one block coming into the UConn game to become the all-time leader in the category. She wasted no time ending the drama, breaking the record with her 222nd career block within the first few minutes of the contest.
Mocs missing Shumpert
For two weeks now, the Mocs have been adjusting to life without guard Chelsey Shumpert, Paducah, Ky., who started right along Alicia Payne, Memphis, to form a dynamic backcourt.
A knee injury at Indiana on Nov. 17 changed that however, forcing Coach Foster to look upon some new faces to fill the hole left by Shumpert.
“We’re just piecing together some stuff,” Foster said about the rotation. “Queen (Alford) is a transfer who hasn’t played competitively in a year and a half… and with (Aryanna Gilbert) it’s not a year yet since her ACL so we have some players that need to play.”
One perk of having a Hall of Fame coach are the connections that come with it.
If having dinner at each other’s house the night before playing each other doesn’t signify friendship, then I don’t know what does.
So what does that friendship mean for UTC fans?
More opportunities to see one of the best team’s in the country in Chattanooga.
“When he said come down and play, it’d be great for our fans…and it’d be great to go up there next year to see your place and your fans, I was all for it,” Auriemma said of Foster. “I said anytime you want we’ll do it. For as long as you want, and then when you don’t want to anymore then we won’t do it.”
With that said, it looks like Chattanooga will have plenty of chances to shock the nation once again in the future.
*Header photo by Chattanooga Athletics
Contact Sports Editor John Mitchell at firstname.lastname@example.org