ASHEVILLE, N.C. - Two down, one to go.
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball team moved within one game of securing a spot in the NCAA tournament Sunday with a wire-to-wire, 77-44 victory over Elon in the semifinals of the Southern Conference tournament at the U.S. Cellular Center in Asheville, N.C.
The Mocs (28-3), who won their 24th straight and improved to 20-0 against Southern Conference competition, will face Davidson in the championship game today at 5 p.m. The third-seeded Wildcats held on to defeat Western Carolina. The game will be aired on Comcast Sports Southeast as well as online at ESPN3.com.
Taylor Hall finished with 18 points, 11 rebounds and four assists, while Ashlen Dewart had 14 points. Nobody played more than 25 minutes, in part due to a dominating defensive effort. The Phoenix started the second half 1-for-22 from the field, which included 16 consecutive misses and a span of 10 minutes and 57 seconds between Lauren Brown's tip-in off a missed shot at the 17:39 mark, and Kelsey Harris' layup with 6:42 remaining. By that time, the Mocs had gone on a 22-5 run and completely taken control of the game with a 60-28 lead.
"I think we played well," UTC coach Jim Foster said. "I thought we took care of the ball well, and we moved our feet well and made good decisions as far as rotations defensively. We've changed up how we defend things in the last two weeks, and we continue to get better there."
Jasmine Joyner had nine points, seven rebounds and two blocks for UTC, while Meghan Downes had eight points. The team hit their first nine free throw attempts and finished 13-for-14 from the line, while holding a 48-31 rebounding advantage.
"The good thing about being deep is that we can mix players and not miss a beat," Hall said. "We got to rest a little today, and hopefully that'll show tomorrow. We've been trying to come out of the gates with a lot of energy; it's one of the things we can control."
The Phoenix (15-16) were 1-for-9 from 3-point range Sunday, with specialist Zora Stephenson connecting on their only make in the first half. They were led by Kelsey Harris's 10 points and six rebounds in their last game as a member of the Southern Conference. They move to the Colonial Athetic Association next season.
"It wasn't our best outing. We didn't shoot well, but I'm glad we were competing until the end," Elon coach Charlotte Smith said. "It was a day where the shots weren't falling, and it took the wind out of our sails.
"Chattanooga is a great team. They are very experienced and did a great job."
• Davidson 74, Western Carolina 67
Laura Murray finished with 25 points, and the Lady Wildcats outscored the Lady Catamounts 13-6 over the final 4:51 to advance to the championship game against UTC for the second straight season.
Dakota Dukes scored 18 with eight rebounds, and Hannah Early added 12 for Davidson (16-15). Shauna Terry had 19 points and 12 rebounds for Western Carolina (15-17), while Justin Taylor added 18. The two combined to score 25 of the team's 41 second-half points.
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.