Wes Moore claims to not be a superstitious man. The clear plastic cup on his desk — the one with the fading Longhorns Steakhouse logo — indicates otherwise.
"Look how foggy it is," the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball coach said Tuesday, holding it up to the light. "They give me a hard time about how there's no telling how many germs are on there. I don't want to wash all of the good off, so I just kind of rinse it -- lightly."
That to-go cup has been with the Lady Mocs at every game -- 17 straight wins -- for nearly two months. It was there Monday in Asheville, N.C., when the Lady Mocs (29-3) edged Davidson 64-63 to win the Southern Conference tournament and earn the league's bid to the NCAA tournament.
For a coach, Moore said, the day after winning the conference tournament is as good as it gets.
"Today is about the best day of the year for me," he said. "It's the best feeling in the world, knowing you're set, you're in and you don't have to worry about it."
Moore is on the road recruiting today. It's spring break at UTC, so his players are getting a few days off before they resume practice Friday. The NCAA selection show is Monday.
The cup came into Moore's life at UTC's pregame meal for the Jan. 18 contest at Davidson. It was a critical game between the two teams at the top of the league standings. UTC took control of the SoCon race by winning 60-56, and from that point the Lady Mocs kept rolling and the cup was part of Moore's game-day ritual.
"That cup got off to a hot start," he said, adding that he has had a few close calls, when he almost left it on the bench or press row.
Moore said keeping the cup around is just a playful thing. He also nodded when asked if it was like a line from the movie "Bull Durham," that a player on a streak should respect the streak.
It wasn't a cup that made the difference against Davidson, however.
UTC won despite shooting 35.7 percent from the field, well below the Wildcats' 53.7 percent. UTC won with volume, attempting 70 shots to Davidson's 41, thanks in part to a 21-6 offensive rebound advantage. And UTC won by being smart with the ball, turning it over just six times; Davidson had 19 turnovers.
The Lady Mocs had a 12-6 lead early in the game. That was gone long before halftime, when Davidson led 32-27, and UTC didn't reclaim the lead until Kayla Christopher's putback with 8.2 seconds left.
"We've known how to win all season long," Christopher said.
UTC's 19-game win streak started two games before Moore decided the cup was part of the team. And it will be accompanying the Lady Mocs to the NCAA tournament, though Moore might have to hide it because the NCAA allows only its blue NCAA cups courtside.
"The cup will be there," Moore said, smiling. "Find it."
John Frierson is in his seventh year at the Times Free Press and seventh year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...