The group looked mismatched on the court together, and they were.
A pair of 6-foot-3 centers, a point guard measuring 6-1, and a pair of 5-9 guards on the wings. That was University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s lineup briefly Sunday afternoon in the team’s senior day home finale, and although the experiment lasted only a minute and 26 seconds of game time, it signified the endings of five careers at McKenzie Arena.
The Mocs cruised to a 77-56 victory over UNC Greensboro before an announced crowd of 2,032 on senior day, which marked the final home games for Alex Black, Ashlen Dewart, Meghan Downes, Faith Dupree and Taylor Hall. The win was the team’s 22nd consecutive and 39th in a row at home.
With the game comfortably in hand, UTC head coach Jim Foster put all five in at the same time, giving them about a minute and a half on the court together before taking them out to one last standing ovation from the McKenzie Arena crowd. The quintet has combined to score 4,493 points in their college careers.
The undefeated conference regular season was the fourth in UTC history — all coming in the last 11 seasons.
“It’s hard to run the table,” UTC head coach Jim Foster said. “You have to show up every night as the team that everyone wants to do well against, and the one that everyone would relish beating. When you win a close game and you’re walking off the floor, you can tell by the tears in other players’ eyes how bad they wanted it; you don’t always appreciate how badly people want to take what’s yours.”
Hall flirted with a quadruple-double Sunday, finishing with 10 points, nine rebounds, nine steals and seven assists. Freshman Chelsey Shumpert had a team-high 15 points, as the team forced 30 UNCG turnovers resulting in 30 points. They had 18 fast-break points, 11 second-chance points and 52 points in the paint.
“We wanted to come out with a lot of energy for the seniors,” Shumpert said. “We also wanted to do it for ourselves to keep the [home win] streak alive.”
The Mocs (26-3 overall) shot 60 percent from the floor in the first half, and used a 15-2 run to stretch a one-point lead to 34-20 late in the half. They had nine turnovers in the first 20 minutes — which Foster attributed to “too much energy” — but counteracted that by forcing 14 UNCG miscues.
“We played aggressive defensively, and we played with our heads defensively,” Foster said. “We had a couple of rotation mistakes, but we like to have that sort of energy on defense.”
Ka’Vonne Towns added 10 points, while Dewart had seven points, five rebounds, four steals and two blocks. Janae’ Stevenson and Lucy Mason had 17 points apiece to lead UNCG (7-22, 3-15), with Stevenson adding a game-high 11 rebounds.
The Mocs won’t play again until noon on Saturday, against the winner of Wofford and Georgia Southern. The five departing seniors finished their McKenzie Arena careers with a record of 47-5.
“I guess it still hasn’t hit me that this is my last home game here,” Hall said. “Probably because the tournament is coming, so it’s not officially over, but it’s sad that we’re not going to be playing in front of these fans all the time. They’ve been supportive over the past four years, but hopefully we’ll see them in Asheville.”
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.