By Anthony Sigismond — Staff Writer
It has not been an easy start to the season for the women’s basketball team.
Coming off a week in which they came up short against both No. 19 ranked Florida and No. 23 ranked Indiana, the Lady Mocs quickly found themselves under -.500 to start the season. But even against a couple of Top-25 teams, its arguable that they could have won both games. Despite the losses, playing against these top tier teams could be helpful for Chattanooga going forward.
“The reason we’re playing guys like this is to get smarter and get a little bit tougher,” said head coach Jim Foster in a post-game press conference. “We could be sitting her playing an easy schedule and winning games and saying ‘we’re pretty good.’ The objective is to get as good as you can get. This is a step in that direction.”
UTC lost their first game of the season against the Gators Monday 72-61 and dropped their second consecutive game three days later against the Hoosiers 79-76. However, both games came down to the fourth quarter as the Mocs had at least a share of the lead in both contests.
Unfortunately, when it came down to closing out the games. In the Florida game, the Gators went on a 16-5 run in the final eight minutes after the Mocs tied the game. Against Indiana, Chattanooga turned it over in a one possession game with seconds to play to ultimately seal their fate.
“When you have an opportunity to win basketball games you got to close them out,” said Foster. “We got to be able to get some key stops when we need them. We depended on one player to get stops for us the last couple of years and it has got to be a cumulative effort.”
Even though the Mocs dropped back-to-back homes games for the first in 12 years, the difficult schedule has steadily improved a team who returns all but one starter from a season ago. That includes starting point guard Chelsey Shumpert, Paducah, Ky., who is a year removed from tearing the lateral collateral ligament in her right knee.
While Shumpert is still returning to form, her presence on the floor has still been made early in the season. But for the Mocs to take the next step, they need the 5-foot-4 guard to get back to the way she was prior to the injury.
“Well Chelsey is not back yet in my opinion,” said Foster after the Indiana game. “Zero assists is not what she should be doing. When Chelsey gets into the lane, Chelsey can make things happen. She has got to get into the lane and kick. She has got to be able to play. Again, she’s three games in and they say it takes you a year to recover from that surgery. We are not quite there yet and she was injured about this time. It is not something you can just snap your fingers. She has got something in front of her that she needs to get better at so we will see.”
The Mocs will have multiple opportunities to show just how good they are down the road with games against UCONN and Notre Dame scheduled toward the end of the year. With these marquee matchups, it could be just what they need before they begin Southern Conference play in 2017.
Contact Anthony Sigismond at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @ASigismondUTC