For the moment, 6:30 is far more important to University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball coach Jim Foster than 800. Yet the latter figure will get far more attention than the former in the next several days.
The Mocs used a 10-1 second-half run to pull away from Furman for a 62-44 Southern Conference victory Monday afternoon in front of 1,896 fans. That was the program's 200th win at McKenzie Arena.
It also was UTC's 34th consecutive home victory, 24th successive SoCon win and 12th win in a row overall -- as well as Foster's 799th career coaching victory.
The team's first opportunity to claim No. 800 for Foster will be Saturday at 4 p.m. against Samford in a doubleheader at McKenzie. The UTC men will host UNC Greensboro at 7. The women's game will be available on ESPN3.
In the meantime, Foster was more concerned Monday about the Wednesday morning practice time. The early leader was 7, with a video session 30 minutes prior.
"I really don't think in those terms," Foster said, referring to his next win. "When and if it happens, something may pop in my head."
The Mocs (16-3, 8-0) shot only 34.5 percent from the field Monday but compensated with hustle plays, which led to 18 offensive rebounds, 19 points off 14 Furman turnovers and 13 second-chance points. Furman shot 15-for-49 (30.6 percent), and the Mocs' effort led to 14 more shots and eight more made shots.
"Every time I looked up, we were getting a steal or a rebound," UTC senior Meghan Downes said. "It gave us more momentum to get the lead. We took some bad shots and we took some good shots, but we'll take the win however we can. We worked harder than normal, but we had more effort in the second half from everybody, and it was a good win for us."
Part of UTC's shooting woes came from a sort of gimmick defense used by the Lady Paladins, sagging inside in hopes of limiting Ashlen Dewart and Taylor Hall. Early in the first half, UTC played right into it, as shooters who were being left open for a reason were firing shots from everywhere. As the game progressed, the Mocs slowed down and started to penetrate the gaps, using more patience in their offense and getting much better shots.
Alex Black and Hall led UTC with 12 points apiece, with Hall contributing 11 rebounds and seven of the team's nine assists. Downes added nine points, while Chelsey Shumpert had eight and Dewart scored seven to go along with nine boards. The Mocs had 47 total rebounds to Furman's 31 -- the second straight game they've outrebounded their opponent by a considerable margin.
"I constantly tell our players that the offense is never guaranteed to be there and that's why we have to be a good defensive team -- for days like this," Foster said. "I liked our defense today, and I liked it when we started moving the ball. We were taking quick shots, which is out of character for us, and we're not a good team when we do that, because it makes us easy to guard. When we reverse the ball and the team knows a shot's coming, our chances to get the offensive rebound are much better because we're in better position.
"We saw a different defense today, but the reality is that [the Paladins] weren't matched up to prevent us from going to the offensive glass. It's unfamiliar territory for them because they're only guarding a couple of players, and we think, 'I'm open; I have to shoot.' That's a shot you may end up shooting, but not early in the clock. Once we got that through our heads, we were in good shape, and we were able to keep pressure on the ball, which led to longer passes and opportunities to get out in transition."
The Mocs built a 24-12 lead, but Furman (10-8, 4-3) countered with an 8-2 run, capped by a 3-pointer at the buzzer by Holli Wilkins -- daughter of former UTC great Gerald Wilkins -- to trail 26-20 at halftime. The Paladins used that momentum to close to within 30-27 on a pair of free throws by Wilkins, but the Mocs held the visitors to one field goal in a 9:57 span, stretching their lead to 45-34 in the process and coasting the rest of the way.
"I think they ended the first half on a run, and it just carried over into the first part of the second half," said Hall, who had her 10th double-double of the season. "Coach just encouraged us to play harder and play good defense, and that's what we did, and we were able get control and get the game back under us to where we wanted it to be.
"When we weren't hitting shots, we could have just given up and let them get rebounds, which would have made the game closer, but we crashed the boards harder, and that had a lot to do with the result today."
Brittany Hodges had 17 points and seven rebounds for Furman, which lost its second straight game after four consecutive wins.
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.
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