By Jonathan Caudle, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – A huge fourth-quarter effort helped lead the Golden Eagles to a 58-49 victory over the Austin Peay Governors on Thursday afternoon at the Hooper Eblen Center.
"First, I want to thank our community for the support they provided us tonight," expressed head coach Kim Rosamond. "4 p.m. is a tough start time, but our fans embraced it and made the most of a tremendous opportunity to show how important woman's basketball is to the Upper Cumberland region. After struggling for three quarters, our fans were our 6th man during a crucial fourth quarter. Their energy was contagious and gave us a much-needed spark that allowed us to win the 4th quarter 23-10, which ultimately sealed the win."
"We knew one of Austin Peay's strengths was offensive rebounding, and they exposed us tonight," said Rosamond. "They are extremely athletic and long. Their second and third effort on the offensive glass is just relentless. Even with the poor results in the rebounding category, we still found a way to limit the second-best offense in the OVC to 49 points, and that is a credit to our players. I thought we did a solid job of taking away their first and second options and forcing them to take some really tough shots. Our defense kept us in the game when everything on the offensive end went wrong."
Tech had a really balanced offensive attack. Juniors Kesha Brady and Jordan Brock led the way with 11 points apiece, while also pulling down three boards each. They were followed closely by senior Akia Harris (named Special Olympics Player of the Game for helping spark the comeback) and junior Mackenzie Coleman, who netted nine points each. Mackenzie Coleman led the Golden Eagles on the glass with a team-high seven rebounds. Freshman Jada Guinn garnered a career-high three blocks and tied for a team-high two steals with Brady.
The Governors opened the contest on a 7-0 run to take the early lead after the first two minutes of play. Tech responded on an 8-4 run to close the period and bring the game back within three after the first 10 minutes of play.
Tech continued the momentum into the second quarter as they produced a 7-4 even the game following a Maaliya Owens layup at the second-quarter media timeout. Austin Peay answered to stifle the Golden Eagles momentum and send the game into the break with the Golden Eagles at a five-point deficit, 22-17.
The Golden Eagles were held to a season-low 17 points and struggled to knock down shots over the first 20 minutes of play. As a team, Tech shot 26.9 percent (7-of-26) from the field and a season-low 1-of-12 from 3-point range.
"We did some very uncharacteristic things during the first two quarters," expressed Rosamond. "We finally started to relax and execute in the third and shot the ball much better. In the fourth, we looked like the team we are capable of being on a nightly basis."
The second half was a much different story. Staring down a seven-point deficit, 28-21, at the 6:18-minute mark of the third, the Golden Eagles held the Governors scoreless over the following two minutes of clock to mount a 7-0 run to even the contest at 28 at the third-quarter media timeout. Both teams traded blows through ties at 31, 33, and 35, before the Governors tallied back-to-back layups to hold a four-point lead heading into the final period, 39-35.
The fourth quarter was the Golden Eagles ace, as they locked in defensively to dominate the final 10 minutes of play. Coleman nailed a 3-point jumper to close the game within one, but Harris followed with back-to-back 3-point jumpers of her own to erupt the Hooper Eblen Center and put the Golden Eagles up by five. Austin Peay tallied a pair of free throws to bring the deficit back down to three with six minutes to play, but that was as close as they would get. Guinn netted a layup and Coleman connected on her second 3-pointer of the game to kick Tech's lead back out to eight at the final media timeout of the contest. A trio of free throws from Wilkinson gave the Golden Eagles their first double-digit lead of the game, 52-41, with a little over three minutes to play. The Governors outscored the Golden Eagles over the final minutes of play, but it was too little too late as the Golden Eagles cruised to a nine-point win and their six-straight victory.
"It is really fun to coach a veteran team," said Rosamond. "This is the first time, since our staff has been here, that we can say that. Year One, we had five seniors, but because it was a completely new system, everyone was basically a freshman. Tonight, when nothing went well for three quarters, we played and responded like a veteran team should in the final period. Our seniors decided we were going to play to win, and our team followed their lead."
"While we are grateful for the solid start, we won't get caught up in our early success, because there is still so much basketball to be played. Our daily goal is to be better tomorrow than we were today," expressed Rosamond. "We just want to be the best versions of ourselves academically, athletically, spiritually, and socially every single day. If we can do that, we will become the best team we can be. I think we have a chance to be very good, and I truly believe, we are just scratching the surface. Our team persevered tonight and showed a lot of toughness in their response. Our S.O.A.R. Culture was on full display the last 10 minutes of the game."
The Golden Eagles return to action on Saturday as they host the Murray State Racers in a 5:30 p.m. clash at the Hoop to close out the week.
Photo by Thomas Corhern