NORTH CHARLESTON, SC – No. 2 seed UNC Greensboro lost 91-79 to top-seeded Chattanooga in the Southern Conference Women’s Basketball Championship game Sunday night at North Charleston Coliseum.
Junior forward Irene Otamiri scored a career-high 20 points to pace UNCG (18-12), who had its season-high six game winning streak stopped. Sophomore guard Kristen Boone added 17 points and dished out five assists, while junior forward KaLeah Latham and Jasmine Byrd tossed in 15 and 10 points respectively.
Tiffani Roberson paced UTC (27-3) to its 26th straight victory with 20 points, while Alex Anderson posted a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Nicole Mattison dished out 10 assists and had 13 points. Brooke Hand had 13 points and Katasha Brown and Laura Hall had 12 points apiece. The Lady Mocs only played seven players all night and six scored in double figures.
UNCG had an early mountain to climb in the game and nearly made it all the way to the top. After falling behind by 21 points in the first half and trailing by 14 at halftime, the Spartans got as close as three points in the final four minutes, but wasn’t able to clear that final hurdle that for some time seemed almost impossible.
“We ran into a UTC buzz saw tonight with its seniors and its 3-point shooting to open the game,” UNCG head coach Lynne Agee said. “After losing in the early rounds last year I knew they were going to come back and return with a vengeance this year. They jumped on us early and we didn’t match their intensity to start.”
Sophomore center Meghan Chamberlain’s jumper to open the second half cut the UNCG deficit to 49-37. An 18-10 run over the first 10 minutes of the second half got the Spartans to within six points, 59-53. The lead stayed that way for the next four minutes until Otamiri canned a jumper to make it 71-66 with 6:10 to play.
Boone took control of the game with 10 points down the stretch, including back-to-back layups that brought the Spartans to within three, 75-72, at the 4:18 mark. However, on the other end, Boone fouled UTC’s Brown on a 3-point attempt and she calmly sank all three to swing the lead back to six, 78-72. UNCG never got any closer from that point.
All toll, the Spartans used a 31-13 run starting in the first half and carrying over into the second stanza that enabled them to back into the game.
“Everyone picked it up in the second half,” explained Latham. “We weren’t going down without a fight.”
“I thought we played with heart. It was a tough one because we did not back down and I was encouraged by such a young team to do that,” added Agee. “We set a goal of getting their lead to single digits by the 10:00 mark (of the second half) and that would put us in position to win.”
Chattanooga finished the evening with 12 3-pointers, which was one off the SoCon Tournament record. Also, the 91 points was the most allowed by the Spartans since falling 92-91 in the SoCon title game back in February 27, 1999.
Chattanooga showed no effects of playing its third game in three days by coming out and grabbing an early 14-7 lead as the Lady Mocs made five of its first six shots in the opening minutes. Anderson showed her versatility with a 3-pointer to begin the game and later made a turn around jumper in the paint. In between those buckets, Roberson converted down low with a pair of layups.
Hand continued the torrid shooting by connecting on consecutive treys to give UTC a 24-11 lead at the 13:25 mark. The 3-point barrage by the Lady Mocs continued as they made their first seven attempts from beyond the arc to build a lead that swelled to 46-25 at the 4:25 mark.
Latham jump started a 10-3 UNCG run to close the half by connecting on a 3-ball at the top of the key. Otamiri also keyed the run with a pair of buckets, including a fast-break jumper that closed the deficit to 49-35 at the break.
All together, UTC shot 63.0 percent (17-of-27) from the field and made 8-of-10 from beyond the arc. Roberson, Anderson and Mattison all scored in double figures. The Spartans shot a respectable 43.8 percent (14-of-32) with Otamiri having 12 and Latham with nine points.
Boone and Otamiri were named to the all-tournament first team, while Latham garnered second team nods.
GAME NOTES: 11 of the 21 SoCon finals have pitted the top two seeds...UNCG and UTC met three times prior in the SoCon Tournament, the Spartans won 73-67 in the semifinals of 2000, while the Lady Mocs won 64-63 in 2001 and 77-69 in the 2002 championship game... Both teams scored 30 points in the paint... UTC has won all 10 title games they have played in the SoCon... Roberson was named the Most Outstanding Player
CHATTANOOGA 91, UNC GREENSBORO 79
UNC GREENSBORO (18-12)
OTAMIRI, Irene 8-17 2-2 20; BOONE, Kristen 7-14 3-5 17; LATHAM, KaLeah 5-8 4-4 15; BYRD, Jasmine 4-13 0-0 10; CHAMBERLAIN, Meghan 2-5 1-2 5; DIXON, Jasmine 1-3 2-2 4; JACKSON, Shanika 1-1 0-0 3; GRIMSLEY, Gini 1-4 0-0 3; BLAIR, Caroline 1-2 0-0 2; CURRENT, Ashley 0-1 0-0 0; BROOKS, Kemena 0-1 0-0 0; LING, Ashley 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 30-69 12-15 79.
ROBERSON, Tiffani 8-12 4-5 20; ANDERSON, Alex 5-8 5-6 16; HAND, Brooke 5-9 1-2 15; MATTISON, Nicole 3-8 5-6 13; BROWN, Katasha 3-9 4-7 12; HALL, Laura 3-6 4-4 12; SPANN, Kristen 1-1 0-0 3. Totals 28-53 23-30 91.
Halftime: Chattanooga 49-35. 3-point goals-UNC Greensboro 7-23 (OTAMIRI, Irene 2-4; BYRD, Jasmine 2-8; LATHAM, KaLeah 1-1; GRIMSLEY, Gini 1-4; JACKSON, Shanika 1-1; BROOKS, Kemena 0-1; DIXON, Jasmine 0-1; BOONE, Kristen 0-3), Chattanooga 12-25 (HAND, Brooke 4-8; BROWN, Katasha 2-7; MATTISON, Nicole 2-4; HALL, Laura 2-4; ANDERSON, Alex 1-1; SPANN, Kristen 1-1). Fouled out--UNC Greensboro-OTAMIRI, Irene, Chattanooga-None. Rebounds-UNC Greensboro 34 (CHAMBERLAIN, Meghan 8; LATHAM, KaLeah 8), Chattanooga 35 (ANDERSON, Alex 10). Assists-UNC Greensboro 16 (BOONE, Kristen 5), Chattanooga 25 (MATTISON, Nicole 10). Total fouls-UNC Greensboro 23, Chattanooga 15. A-1013.
- UNCG -