By Jonathan Caudle, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Tech women's basketball closed out their home-opening weekend with its seventh-straight victory in a 77-72 win over the Murray State Racers on Saturday inside the Hooper Eblen Center.
The Golden Eagles improved to 11-4 overall and remain unbeaten, 4-0, in OVC play, while Murry State falls to 8-7 on the season and 1-3 in conference play. The win also marked the 50th career victory for head coach Kim Rosamond.
"Huge credit to Murray State, they came to Cookeville with a great game plan and played really well," expressed Rosamond. "They are young, but really talented. Coach [Rechelle] Turner is doing a tremendous job building her program and they are going to be a force for years to come in the OVC. Macey Turely is always a threat, and we didn't really have an answer for her tonight. But at the end of it all, our kids found a way."
Five Golden Eagles recorded double-figure scoring in the contest, with junior Jordan Brock leading the way with 15 points and being named the Special Olympics Player of the Game, shooting .833 (5-of-6) from the floor, 75 percent (3-of-4) from beyond the arc, and a perfect 100 percent (2-of-2) from the free throw line. Junior Kesha Brady followed closely behind Brock with 13 points, while senior Anacia Wilkinson netted 12 points in the affair. The final two Golden Eagles in double-figures was junior Mackenzie Coleman and freshman Maaliya Owens, who netted 10 points apiece. Brady collected a team-high six boards, while freshman Jada Guinn picked up five of her own. Akia Harris dished out a team-high five assists, and Wilkinson and Owens both tallied a pair of blocks in the win.
The Golden Eagles got off to a slow start. Wilkinson netted the first basket of the contest, but that was the only time Tech led in the first period as the Racers responded to tie things up and eventually held a 3-point lead at the first media timeout, 12-9. Murray State went on a 9-6 run to lead by as much as six in the first quarter, but a huge three from Maaliya Owens with two seconds remaining in the first, cut the deficit to only three heading into the second, 21-18.
Brock knocked down a jump shot to open the second quarter and bring the Golden Eagles within one, 21-20, but the Racers produced an 11-4 run over the following four minutes of play to push their lead out to an 8-point deficit with less than three minutes to play in the half. Wilkinson connected on back-to-back jumpers to close the half and bring Tech back within four heading into the locker room, 32-28.
"I thought that Murray's first-half effort was just better than ours," said Rosamond. "We talked about that at halftime, and I thought our effort changed in the second half. We won both the third and fourth quarters, and I thought there were positives to be taken from the second half."
As a team, the Golden Eagles couldn't get into an offensive groove in the first half, shooting 33 percent (12-of-36) from the field, 23.1 (3-of-13) from 3-point range, and 25 percent (1-of-4) from the free throw line. Tech also struggled to get the Racers off the glass, losing the rebounding battle 26-19.
The second half was a different story. The Golden Eagles battled with the Racers over the first four minutes of play to score a 10-6 run and cut the lead down to two at the 6:17-minute mark. Murray State opened the lead back to six, 46-40, but a pair of layups from Brady and Harris, and a pair of Brady free throws evened up the contest at 46 for the first time since the 7:11-minute mark of the opening period. Tech controlled the final 2:45 of play in the third to outscore the Racers 5-4 and take a one-point advantage into the final 10 minutes of play.
The Golden Eagles never looked back. Tech opened the fourth on a 9-3 run to take a seven-point lead at the final media timeout of the contest, 60-53. Brock knocked down her third 3-pointer of the contest to give the Golden Eagles a double-digit lead with a little over six minutes to play. Tech continued to hold a double-digit lead, 66-56, through the 4:06-minute mark of the fourth. The Racers continued to press the Golden Eagles, but it was too little too late as Tech held on to capture the 77-72 victory.
The second half was night and day for the Golden Eagles as they shot 53.6 percent (15-of-28) from the field, 50 percent (4-of-8) from long-range, and 71.4 percent (15-of-21) from the free throw line. The Golden Eagles attempted 21 of their 26 free throws over the final 20 minutes of play.
"We need to start games better," said Rosamond. "Giving up 21 points in the first quarter is unacceptable especially with how well we have shown we can be defensively. If we want to continue to win at a consistent level, we have to make huge progress rebounding the basketball and find a way to play at a high level on both ends of the floor for 4 quarters. At the end of the day, I am proud of our kids for gutting this one out. They believed in themselves and one another and just made huge plays at the end of the game and found a way to win."
The Golden Eagles depart for their second OVC road trip of the year, heading to Edwardsville, Illinois to take on the SIUE Cougars on Thursday, Jan. 16, before closing the week on Saturday, Jan. 18 against Eastern Illinois inside Lantz Arena.
Photo by Thomas Corhern