By Layne Weitzel, TTU Sports Information
CHARLESTON, Ill. – Tennessee Tech headed into its game on Saturday afternoon with seven chances left to make some headway on its goal to return to the OVC Tournament. The team especially needed a change from its recent results of the last few weeks, having dropped five of its last six games by nine points or less, and three by four points or less.
Its win over Eastern Illinois couldn't have come at a more perfect time.
The Golden Eagles toughed out a much-needed victory over the Panthers by a score of 60-57, grabbing their first road and second conference win of the season. It also marked Tech's first win in Charleston since Jan. 27, 2011.
Tech fiddled with its starting lineup for the second-straight game, tapping freshman Abby Buckner for the third start of her career and first since starting against Middle Tennessee back in November in her hometown of Murfreesboro.
She rose to the challenge. In a season-high 35 minutes, Buckner totaled a career-best 14 points and eight rebounds and also added two steals and an assist on Jordan Brock's game-winning layup with 12 seconds left in the final quarter.
Buckner was one of four Golden Eagles in double-figures – MacKenzie Coleman led the team with her second-straight double-double and fifth of the season with 15 points and 11 rebounds (sealing Tech's win with two free throws in the game's final seconds), while Yaktavia "Shug" Hickson and Brock added 12 and 10 points respectively.
What has been a struggle for the Golden Eagles as of late turned a key part in their win. As a team, Tech crushed its season-best in free-throw percentage, making 17 of its 18 tries to tally 94.4 percent. Eastern Illinois comparatively got to the line just seven times and made only three.
The Golden Eagles also out-rebounded the Panthers 39-24.
After talking over and over about the need for strong individual performances across the roster rather than just one from a single player, Tech got it done tonight in what was truly a team win.
"Our team needed this game," said head coach Kim Rosamond. "We've been right there. Sometimes you just have to learn from experience. We've failed in that situation several times this season, but we continued to use it as growth. Tonight, we got the defensive stop we needed at the end of the game. Hopefully this will be a launching pad for us."