(gomocs.com) CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — NaKeia Burks drove to the basket and avoided her defender, but the ball missed the bucket and fell to the other side. She was there to pick it up and her put back retook the lead for the Mocs with 57 seconds to play.
“I always say it to them, who know best where the ball is going when they shoot it? The shooter!” Chattanooga head coach Katie Burrows said. “She went and got it and that started our little spark there.”
That put back gave UTC a 54-52 lead and was the start of the final eight points for the Mocs in a 13-2 run to close out the game and grab a 58-52 win over Mercer in Southern Conference women’s basketball action. The Mocs (9-17) improve to 8-4 in conference play and the Bears (6-20) fall to 3-8 against the SoCon.
Mercer put together a 6-0 run midway through the fourth quarter for its largest lead of the game, 50-45, with 6:34 to play, but the Mocs held strong and came back with a run of their own.
“They had a little momentum at the end and they probably felt like they had a really good shot and they did,” Burrows said. “They gave it to us with all they had. Our girls just decided to let it all out.”
Lakelyn Bouldin made 2-of-3 free throws to get the scoring started for UTC with 6:20 remaining in the game. That cut the Mercer lead to 50-47. Eboni Williams connected on a 3-point play, drawing the foul while sinking a layup to tie the game at 50 apiece with 3:42 on the clock.
Summer Pahl resonded with her 14th point on the game on a layup to put the Bears back out front 52-50, but that would be the final scoring drive for Mercer.
Bria Dial scored six of the Mocs’ final eight points for a team-best 17. She drew the foul for a pair of free throws at the 2:49 mark to tie the game 52-52. Burks put back gave UTC the lead for the first time in more than seven minutes with 57 seconds to play.
After a missed shot by Mercer, Burks grabbed her ninth rebound of the game, a career-best, and headed down the court. Williams got the ball in to Dial for the layup, stretching the lead to 56-52 with 20 seconds remaining.
A turnover on the Mercer end put the ball back into Dial’s hands. She was sent to the free throw line with 14 seconds to play and sealed the win with a pair of free throws to end the game.
“I’m so proud of them for gutting it out,” Burrows said. “Mercer did such a good job of crowding us and denying the ball. Props to them for playing a heck of a game.”
Dial led three Chattanooga players in double figures with 17 points and eight rebounds. Williams had 14 points and six boards and Bouldin added 10 points in the win.
Bouldin moved up one more spot on the Mocs’ all-time scoring list with 1,409 points, passing Julie Copeland (’91) for eighth. Through 56 games, Williams now has 513 points and 366 rebounds.
The Mocs shot 40 percent (4-10) in the final quarter and made 7-of-8 from the free throw line after having just three chances the previous three quarters. They were 22-of-56 from the field and 6-of-19 beyond the arc while making 8-of-11 from the stripe.
Mercer’s Shannon Titus had a double-double with a game-high 20 points and 11 rebounds. Pahl also recorded a double-double with 14 points and 10 boards and Jill Harris dished out a game-best five assists. Titus also added two assists, three steals and four blocked shots.
The Bears were 20-of-59 from the field and missed both 3-point attempts while making 12-of-16 from the free throw line.
Chattanooga scored 13 points off 12 Mercer turnovers while the Bears converted 15 UTC miscues into 12 points. The teams were nearly even in the paint with the Mocs edging Mercer 24-22.
The Mocs face a tough Samford team Saturday. The Bulldogs are tied with UNCG for the SoCon lead at 8-3, a half game ahead of Chattanooga. The game will be the first of a double-header with the men’s team who host Mercer.