The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women’s basketball team hasn’t lost a game in 14 weeks. They’ve won 25 consecutive games and last week they sealed yet another spot in the NCAA tournament.
And for three of the team members, it’s been an experience that on game day, they’ve had to enjoy in street clothes.
Destany Bramblett, Kayla Freeman and Ansley Chilton redshirted this season. Each case was injury: Bramblett and Chilton were lost before the season, while Freeman played two minutes in the season opener against University of Alabama before an injury sidelined her. So when the Mocs find out their opponent tonight when the NCAA tournament selection show releases their brackets, the trio will celebrate their seeding and their destination, then do what they can to help prepare the team.
The 29-3 Mocs took off the first part of the week to go home for UTC’s spring break before returning Friday for practice. There will be a viewing party at Jefferson’s tonight at 6 p.m. as the team watches the selection show, which starts at 7 on ESPN.
ESPN’s Charlie Creme’s latest bracket prediction has UTC as an 11-seed, facing rival Middle Tennessee State in College Station, Texas — the same place UTC fell in last season’s first round to Nebraska. Other brackets have UTC as either an 11-seed or 12-seed, but going to either Toledo, Ohio or Chapel Hill, N.C.
The team doesn’t care where they go. They’re just happy to be in the mix.
“It’s hard to win back-to-back Southern Conference championships,” Bramblett, a senior, said. “We’re undefeated [in conference], but beating three teams three times in a row is harder. I’m proud of the way everybody played. Taylor [Hall] stepped up again; I know she’s the Southern Conference player of the year, but at the same time, everybody played well.
“Coach [Jim Foster] told us that the best team we’ve faced has been in practice because we’ve been practicing against our second-team, which is the second-best team, so we had to keep our momentum and keep going because only one team is going to come out of our conference.”
Bramblett admitted that she was an “emotional wreck” on Senior Night. Yet she was happy when freshman Aryanna Gilbert wore her No. 24 jersey when the Mocs defeated UNC Greensboro 77-56 on March 2.
Bramblet has had three previous seasons in the program while Freeman has had two, but for Chilton, this has been a new experience for the 6-foot-3 Dade County product. She planned on spending this season learning and — along with fellow freshman Jasmine Joyner — being tutored by seniors Ashlen Dewart and Faith Dupree. Instead, a shoulder injury slowed down her season before it got going.
“I was upset when I was injured because I was going to use this year to get better, but overall, it’s been an amazing year and I’ve enjoyed it,” Chilton said. “I can’t wait for the next four years to actually play.”
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.