COLLEGE STATION, Texas — The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga had Nebraska on the ropes briefly Saturday at Texas A&M's Reed Arena. But the Lady Mocs couldn't deliver the knockout punch and advance beyond the first round of the NCAA women's basketball tournament.
The No. 11 seed in the Norfolk Region, UTC started the second half strong and led by nine with a little more than 15 minutes to play. It was the sixth-seeded Cornhuskers who finished strong and advanced, however, with a 73-59 win.
Nebraska changed the game by switching from zone to man-to-man defense, while offensively it got three straight 3-pointers from forward Jordan Hooper during a game-closing 19-5 run to crack open what was a very tight contest.
"Nebraska turned up the heat and we just didn't handle it well, me included," UTC coach Wes Moore said. "I've got to do a better job of getting us some open looks."
In the end, all the key statistics were in Nebraska's favor. The Huskers (24-8) outrebounded UTC (29-4) by nine, they shot 48 percent to UTC's 36.4 and they were 5-for-6 from 3-point range in the second half.
Nebraska also forced the action more often, and it showed in the free-throw stats. UTC finished 1-for-1 from the line and Nebraska was 18-for-23.
"They must have been a whole lot more aggressive than us," Moore said with what could have been a touch of sarcasm.
Nebraska will face No. 3-seeded Texas A&M (25-9) in the second round Monday. The Aggies won 71-45 over No. 14 seed Wichita State, which is coached by former Bradley Central High School standout Jody Adams.
UTC's loss ended the Lady Mocs' season and snapped their win streak at 19 games. It also marked the end of the careers for seniors Kayla Christopher and Kylie Lambert. Christopher scored 11 points in her final game.
"I thought we really had a chance to make a statement today, but it's been a great four years at UTC," she said.
Led by Taylor Hall's three 3s in the first 5:01 -- Hall led the Lady Mocs with 13 points -- UTC started out strong offensively, hitting 11 of its first 23 shots, with five 3s. The Lady Mocs had a small lead for most of the first half, but cold shooting and some turnovers helped the Huskers close the gap and take a 32-30 lead with 1:28 remaining.
Faith Dupree tied the game with a jump shot off the glass, and the score was 32-all at the break. UTC made just two of its final 10 shots of the half. Nebraska was little better, hitting three of 10.
Three years ago in the first round, UTC led Oklahoma State by 18 at halftime before getting crushed in the second half. Saturday, Alex Black opened the second half with a 3 to spark a 15-6 run that gave UTC a 47-38 lead with 15:19 to play.
Nebraska called time out and quickly regrouped, switching to man defense. The Huskers' pressure forced UTC into some bad shots, while offensively Nebraska began effectively attacking the basket.
"From that point on, we had a hard time getting looks," Christopher said. "They turned the pressure up a lot on defense, and it definitely got to us."
UTC clung to a 49-47 lead for several minutes before Hooper hit a 3 to give Nebraska its first lead since early in the game. The game was tied at 54 with 8:42 to play following a Christopher three-point play.
It was all Huskers the rest of the way.
Black hit four 3s and scored 12 points for the Lady Mocs. Nebraska held Ashlen Dewart to eight points and just eight field-goal attempts. Hooper led the Huskers with 21 points and 12 rebounds.
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 ...