published Saturday, March 23rd, 2013

Chattanooga's Lady Mocs embrace chance at history

Chattanooga coach Wes Moore, center, gather his players during practice for a first-round game in the women's NCAA college basketball tournament in College Station, Texas.
Chattanooga coach Wes Moore, center, gather his players during practice for a first-round game in the women's NCAA college basketball tournament in College Station, Texas.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
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Will the Lady Mocs win an NCAA tournament?
  • photo
    Chattanooga's Kayla Christopher goes for a layup during practice for a first-round game in the women's NCAA college basketball tournament in College Station, Texas, Friday. Chattanooga is to play Nebraska on Saturday.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — In the first game of her collegiate career, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga freshman guard Tatianna Jackson was a part of Lady Mocs basketball history. She wants to make more today at Texas A&M's Reed Arena.

The Lady Mocs' 2012-13 season began with the now legendary 80-71 upset of Tennessee, UTC's first win over the Lady Vols in the Division I era. Four months later, UTC will try to match the 2003-04 Lady Mocs by winning an NCAA tournament game.

The No. 11-seeded Lady Mocs (29-3), who have tied the 2003-04 and 2007-08 squads' school record for wins in a season, take on No. 6 seed Nebraska (23-8) in the first round in the Norfolk Region.

"We're definitely looking to go and win our first game against Nebraska and then keep winning," Jackson said Wednesday. "We're looking to make history."

The Lady Mocs were a No. 10 seed in the 2004 NCAA tournament when they upset No. 7 seed Rutgers in the first round at McKenzie Arena. Current UTC assistant coach Katie Galloway Burrows scored 14 points and made two crucial 3-pointers in the 74-69 upset of Rutgers, which remains the high-water mark for one of the top mid-major programs in the country.

"[The players] ask me about it sometimes," Burrows said Wednesday. "They're really excited about [the NCAAs and the chance for a win], and you can tell because they're talking about it a lot. They're pumped about being in the NCAA tournament."

The November win over the Lady Vols, a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament, has made all things seem possible. It's given UTC confidence all season long, coach Wes Moore said.

"We've stressed and we've pumped into their minds, if you can play with Tennessee, you can play with anybody in this country," Moore said during Friday's news conference. "I think that confidence has helped us when times have gotten tough we've had to fight through something, and I hope it will help us tomorrow night.

"I promise you we're going to remind them once or twice more before we go out there about that win."

There's a chance UTC's players might know it by heart by now. They have won 19 straight games, one of the longest win streaks in the country, and they will take the floor a confident team -- one that believes that earning the program's second NCAA tournament win is a real possibility.

"I think we worked really hard to be here, but we're not done yet," said junior center Ashlen Dewart, who will be playing in her first NCAA tournament. "We want to make a statement here."

For Moore, who is making his ninth trip to the tournament, making the field of 64 is still a special achievement. And the perks that come with it haven't lost their appeal, either.

"You know, folks, you don't understand, yesterday we got a police escort [from campus] to the airport," he told the media, his voice rising. "I mean three police vehicles rushing ahead and blocking off intersections. I got a kick out of it more than the players did. I was like, get pictures, get footage.

Then we step on a charter flight -- I mean, come on. When we say charter, [the players] think bus, OK?

"This is big stuff for us."

It will be even bigger if UTC can knock off the Huskers and move on to the second round.

about John Frierson...

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 ...

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