It’s not hard to see how the Chattanooga Lady Mocs have lost only three games this season.
Ashlen Dewart lumbered through the paint for 24 points and 13 rebounds, the Mocs scored from just about everywhere and their defense smothered Georgia Southern’s offense, forcing 21 turnovers and cruising to a 67-50 win Monday in Hanner Fieldhouse.
The Mocs (23-3, 16-1 Southern Conference) scored 23 points off of 19 offensive rebounds and 25 points off turnovers. They limited GSU (5-20, 4-12) to just 17 of 46 shooting.
Though Chattanooga won the rebounding battle, 37-31, GSU had a 17-12 edge at halftime.
"I thought our kids really, really battled the whole game, but (Chattanooga) did a nice job moving the ball against pressure," said first-year GSU coach Chris Vozab. "When we got down, we had to put some different pressures in. We had to scramble around to contest shots, and that made it tough to box out. You have to be perfect to go up against a size advantage like they have."
Three Eagles did the bulk of GSU’s scoring, with MiMi DuBose and Meredyth Frye each finishing with 12 points and Anna Claire Knight adding 10.
The Eagles got as close as 39-33 early in the second half, but Chattanooga answered with a 9-0 run to take its largest lead at the time, 48-33, with 12 minutes, 23 seconds remaining in the game.
"I thought we really competed," Vozab said. "We know that valuing the ball is a difference maker. We did that (in Saturday’s 52-51 win against Samford), and it allowed us to beat a pretty good team. We didn’t do that today."
The run was snapped by a Maggie Davis 3 pointer.
Georgia Southern shot it well from behind the arc, hitting 6 of 18 attempts.
The Eagles went bombs away in the first half to stay in the game much of the way, hitting 4 of 9 3-pointers including a pair by DuBose.
Chattanooga didn’t lead until 12:25 remained in the first half and Alicia Payne hit a jumper to put the Mocs ahead, 11-9.
Two GSU turnovers allowed UTC to pull ahead, 21-17 on easy layups by Kayla Christopher and Dewart, and a free throw by Payne.
The Eagles snapped the mini-run with a 3 by point guard Alexis Sams. Meghan Downes answered it on the other end with a 3 of her own, to put the Mocs up, 24-20, but Ronnesha Smith got a tough layup and Jordi Cook pulled in a defensive layup and tossed it down the court to a streaking Anna Claire Knight, who put it in to tie the game at 24-24 with 4:57 remaining in the half.
The Eagles, who turned it over 15 times in the first half alone, started letting it slip away as they committed four turnovers in the final minutes of the half, and Chattanooga closed the first period on a 10-0 run featuring 3s by Downes and Christopher. The Eagles hit the break trailing 34-24.
The Mocs scored half of their first-half points off of GSU turnovers, winning that battle, 17-0.
"Clearly turnovers were our downfall and allowed them to go on that run, but credit Chattanooga," Vozab said. "They’re known for their pressure defense. As disappointing as it was that it got away from us, I did think that if we compare this game to the game at their place (a 75-43 loss on Jan. 12), the way we made the turnovers was a lot different. There were a lot more turnovers trying to make a play, as opposed to being tentative and unsure. Clearly we still need to work on our cuts, our spacing and our timing — things that have been looking a lot better against teams that don’t play in the passing lanes as much as these guys do."
Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.