Published March 11, 2013
ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Laura Murray had played her heart out, hoping to put Davidson into the NCAA tournament for the first time.
When the junior guard's 15-foot jumper from the left wing hit rimmed out all she could do was grab at her No. 2 jersey and try to hold back the tears.
The Wildcats, who led throughout the second half, lost their bid to appear on the nation's biggest stage when Kayla Christopher scored on an offensive rebound with 8.2 seconds to lift Chattanooga to a 64-63 win Monday and the Southern Conference championship.
Nobody took it harder than Murray, who was all over the floor and came up with repeated big plays to keep Davidson in front until Christopher's shot.
"I'm still thinking about it now," said Murray, who finished with a game-high 22 points but had nine turnovers. "What could I have done? I don't ever want to feel like this again. I don't ever want to lose like that again."
Davidson (21-11) led by as many as 11 in the second half and by five with 2 minutes to play after Murray hit a 3-pointer and completed an aggressive drive to the hole.
But they failed to score in the final 2 minutes and surrendered the lead — and their hopes of an NCAA berth.
"We fought real hard," said Davidson coach Michele Savage. "We knew it would be a battle in the end. We withstood a lot throughout out the game, but we slipped down at the end without making some plays or making some stops on the other end."
Murray will get another shot next year.
But Davidson senior Sophia Aleksandravicius, the two-time Southern Conference player of the year, will not. She finished with 18 points on 8 of 11 shooting and grabbed 11 rebounds in her final conference tournament game.
The Lady Mocs had 21 offensive rebounds — none bigger than Christopher's putback.
"I've been dreaming about this day for a month now and imagining what it would be like," Christopher said. "For it to actually come true is just awesome."
It was Chattanooga's ninth conference championship in 13 years under Wes Moore, who said this one is special since it's been three years since his team has been back to the NCAAs.
The 11-point deficit was the largest Chattanooga has overcome this season.
"These girls just don't quit," Moore said. "We felt some pressure out there. You just can't help it. You look at the things we did on a day when it was tough to score, it's all about heart. It was all about work ethic and being relentless. We just kept coming at them and they were finally rewarded with eight seconds left."
The Lady Mocs (29-3) enter the NCAA tournament riding a 19-game winning streak.
Taylor Hall had 19 points and tournament MVP Ahlen Dewart was a force inside with 15 points and 12 rebounds.
Davidson shot 54 percent from the field to Chattanooga's 36 percent, but the Wildcats' 19 turnovers proved costly.
With Chattanooga down five, Hall hit a pair of free throws and scored on a drive to pull the Lady Mocs to within 63-62 with 40 seconds remaining.
As Davidson was working on the clock Murray was called for an illegal screen, giving Chattanooga the ball with 25 seconds to go.
Davidson had one final change to win the game and Chattanooga came out with a full-court press. Murray drove down the left side and had a clear shot, but couldn't get it to fall.
"We just tried to make a play," Murray said. "I came down the left side and tried to run off girls and make it. I wasn't happy with it since it wasn't made. I'm still thinking about it now. What could I have done? I don't ever want to feel like this again. I don't ever want to lose like that again."