CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. --- The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball team turned back the clock to play another game in its old home, Maclellan Gym. It wouldn't be the welcome home expected as the Mocs fell 58-57 to UCF in front of 1,534 fans.
"We didn't give ourselves chances to score tonight," Chattanooga head coach Jim Foster said. "We need to get smarter. We're playing great teams.
The Mocs got behind early, but it wouldn't last. Senior Keiana Gilbert forced a turnover and her steal converted into a 3-pointer by her sister Aryanna Gilbert to tie the game 9-9 with 4:51 to play in the first quarter. The Mocs got out front by four points, but UCF would briefly regain the advantage, scoring off a pair of turnovers to lead 15-13 at the 1:04 mark of the opening frame.
Keiana Gilbert tied the game on the ensuing possession with 46 seconds to play in the first and the game would remain tied 15-15 at the close of the quarter.
It would be nearly a minute-and-a-half into the second quarter before either team would score. Chattanooga stepped up and put together a 12-2 scoring run to take its first double-digit lead of the game, 27-17 with 2:54 remaining in the second.
The Mocs would lead by as much as 14 points, 35-21, with 1:18 to play in the half and lead 35-22 at intermission.
UCF started the second half on a 10-0 run with UTC missing a pair of layups and turning the ball over three times. The Mocs rebuilt its lead to 44-32 on nine straight points but the Knights continued to chip away at the lead and trailed 46-43 at the end of three periods.
In the fourth, UCF forced eight turnovers and took the lead for the first time since the first quarter on a steal and fastbreak score by Aliyah Gregory with 4:18 to play.
Freshman Jacobi Lynn connected on her second 3-pointer of the game a minute later to give the lead back to the Mocs. The two teams traded buckets to keep it a 57-55 lead by the Mocs. UTC would turn the ball over three more times in the final minutes and the Knights went up 58-57 on a free throw and a fastbreak layup with 34 seconds to play.
UTC missed its next shot, but grabbed the offensive board and drew a foul from UCF. A steal by the Knights looked to seal the game, but Keiana Gilbert chased down Gregory's fastbreak attempt for her fourth blocked shots of the game with six seconds to play. It would remain UCF ball and the Knights would run the clock out for the win.
Aryanna Gilbert had 12 points and six rebounds for the Mocs. She was joined in double figures by sophomore Lakelyn Bouldin who had 12 points, making all four of her free throws. Keiana Gilbert added 11 points, six rebounds, four blocked shots and two assists.
UTC shot 55 percent from the field making 22-of-40 and connecting on 6-of-9 from the 3-point line. The Knights edged Chattanooga 29-28 on the boards, converting 16 offensive rebounds into 13 points. The Mocs had 25 turnovers that led to 25 points for UCF while converting 12 turnovers into 18 points.
The Mocs will play five of its next six games on the road beginning Wednesday evening with a 5:00 p.m. matchup with Stetson. On Saturday, UTC will play its final home game of November in an 11 a.m. contest against Presbyterian at the Roundhouse. From there UTC will travel to Indiana then participate in the "Challenge in Music City" Thanksgiving weekend, facing Northwestern, Georgetown and Auburn.
"You can't be scared of the way you schedule and how many games you have in a certain amount of day," Foster said. "We have to do what's in front of us and that's not going to change. We need to get smarter and tougher."