The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball team finished the regular season in third place in the Southern Conference.
But the Lady Mocs beat the top two teams in their last two games, including an 80-71 victory Monday night over Appalachian State, which earned the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament this week.
"I think we sent a message," said senior Whitney Hood, who scored 20 points. "Next week is a new season and hopefully we'll be ready for it."
UTC beat top seed Davidson 55-48 on Saturday. Sophomore forward Taylor Hall led the Lady Mocs (21-8, 16-4) in scoring in both victories.
Hall set a career high with 24 points on Monday by hitting five of six 3-pointers and seven of eight free throws in addition to another bucket.
"We had the opportunity to go undefeated at home, which is a pretty big deal for us," Hall said. "We needed this momentum going into the tournament.
"I'd been struggling shooting for most of the season, and finally I've started to hit some things."
UTC earned a first-round bye for the tournament and will play its first game Saturday at 8:30 p.m. against either No. 6 Furman or No. 11 UNC Greensboro.
"You knock off two of the better teams in the league, it was a good way to finish up," coach Wes Moore said. "It will be a challenge if we see hem again.
"It's nice to know we're capable of beating every team in the league."
Anna Freeman led ASU (23-5, 17-3) with 22 points. Raven Gary added 13 points and Maryah Sydnor scored 10.
"We knew coming in that Chatt is not really playing for anything except to beat us," ASU coach Darcie Vincent said. "I think when Chatt plays at that level, they are a dangerous team. When those first couple 3s went down, you just know you're in for a long night."
The Lady Mocs slowly built a 43-33 halftime lead with Hall scoring 12 of her points before the break.
They pushed the lead to 12 less than four minutes into the second half, but ASU responded with a 16-5 run to pull within 56-55 with 11:52 to go.
UTC led 66-64 before going on a 7-0 run with Hall capping it on a 3-pointer from the left corner with 3:03 to go for a 73-64 lead. The Lady Mocs closed by hitting seven of eight free throws in the final 90 seconds.
"I was still sweating bullets until he final horn went off," Moore said. "If they had ever gained the lead, it might have been the extra boost they needed."
Contact David Uchiyama at email@example.com or 423-757-6484. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...