By Xan Gwaltney
TEMPE, Ariz. (UTC/The Loop) — The UTC women’s basketball team’s upset bid in the NCAA Tournament fell short Saturday night with a 70-63 loss to the Oklahoma State Cowgirls – a disappointing end to an otherwise great season for Coach Wes Moore and the Lady Mocs.
For the first half the shoe seemed to fit for UTC’s shot at becoming the Cinderella of the 2010 tournament, with the Lady Mocs holding an 18-point halftime lead at 37-19.
In the first half, the Cowgirls struggled to find a rhythm offensively without guard Andrea Riley, the nation’s third-leading scorer, who was suspended for the game. Also facing a solid defensive effort from UTC, OSU shot just 17.1 percent in the first half.
But after halftime shots began to fall for the Cowgirls, and they were able to apply a frenetic full-court press that forced the Lady Mocs into 17 second-half turnovers.
Freshman guard Kayla Christopher said, “We lost our composure when they went to the press, gave up a few too many turnovers and they took advantage.”
Toni Young scored 16 of her career-high 22 points and Tegan Cunningham scored 19 of her 25 in the second half to lead the Cowgirls’ comeback.
Christopher led the Lady Mocs with 15 points while two-time Southern Conference Player of the Year Shanara Hollinquest had 14 points and 11 rebounds in her final game. Although this was the end of her college career, she said, “I’m proud of the team and how we performed down the stretch. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.”
It was also the final collegiate game for Lady Mocs seniors Tagan Hatchett, Megan Rollins, and Jenaya Wade-Fray.
Back home in Chattanooga, fans gathered at Big River Grille on Broad Street for a viewing party.
A sparse crowd of enthusiastic fans left disappointed, but they remain faithful to the Mocs, though many did not attend the university.
Ken Hays, a local art and framing distributor, said he is not a UTC graduate but has supported the Mocs teams and regularly attended games for over 25 years.
Brandon Potts, Director of the UTC Mocs Club, was certainly disappointed with the game’s outcome, but was pleased with a solid turnout from fans at Big River.
The Lady Mocs finish their season 24-9, the program’s 11th consecutive 20-win season.