By Jonathan Caudle, TTU Sports Information
CHARLESTON, Ill. – Tennessee Tech women's basketball continues to play as a team and make critical plays down the stretch, and Saturday was no different. The Golden Eagles stifled a late Eastern Illinois rally to earn a 13-point, 75-62, victory over EIU inside Lantz Arena.
"We beat a really good team on the road today," expressed head coach Kim Rosamond. "EIU has one of the best scorers in the conference in Karle Pace, and she gave us all we wanted and more. They are a hard-nosed, well-coached team that battled for 40 minutes. It was a gutsy, solid performance from our players. Our mindset coming into this game was to just find a way. It didn't have to be pretty, we just had to find a way to get the job done, and our players did just that. I am so proud of the toughness and togetherness this team continues to show, especially on the road."
The Golden Eagles (13-4, 6-0) tied their largest winning streak from a year ago and earned their ninth-straight victory and sixth-straight win in OVC play. While, EIU fell to 10-7 overall, and received their second defeat, 4-2, in conference play.
Junior Kesha Brady produced her fifth 20-plus point performance of the season as she led the Golden Eagles with a game-high 20 points. Brady knocked down 67 percent (4-of-6) of her shots from 3-point range and netted 89 percent (8-of-9) from the line. She also led the team in assists with five in the contest.
Juniors Mackenzie Coleman and Jordan Brock joined Brady in double-figures with 15 and 14 points respectively. Coleman shot 70 percent (7-of-10) from the field and connected on her sole free throw of the game. She also led the Golden Eagles on the glass, tying for a game-high eight rebounds in the win. Brock shot 50 percent (5-of-10) from the field and 57 percent (4-of-7) from long-range.
The Golden Eagles got a lift from their bench, as they outscored the Panthers bench 20-5.
"Kesha, Jordan and Kenzie were our big three today," expressed Rosamond. "Kesha and Jordan hit huge shots, and Kenzie was really big in the first half. Their poise and experience shined throughout the game, and I loved how our entire team, especially those three, finished the game in the fourth quarter. Our bench continues to give us great production as well. It is a tough combination when your starters do their job, and you get 20 points from the bench. There are very few teams who can count on those kinds of consistent results off the bench night in and night out."
Tech struck first on a layup from Mackenzie Coleman, but the Golden Eagles battled back-and-forth early before the Panthers took a 10-6 lead at the opening media timeout of the contest. The Golden Eagles rallied to produce an 8-4 run to bring the game even at 14 after the first.
The Golden Eagles opened things up in the second. The Golden Eagles took their largest lead of the game on a Brady 3-pointer to lead by five at the media timeout of the second. The Panthers tallied five unanswered to bring the game even, 28-28, with less than three minutes remaining in the half. Tech locked in over the final three minutes of play to hold the Panthers to two points on a 10-2 run to close out the half and take an eight-point advantage into the break, 38-30.
Tech outrebounded the Panthers 18-10 during the first half, which included an 8-3 edge on the offensive glass.
EIU attempted to rally in the third, shooting 64 percent from the field, 75 percent from 3-point range, and 40 percent from the free throw line as they outscored Tech 19-17, coming within three points of tying the contest at the 1:08-minute mark, but 3-pointer from Brady with 52 seconds to play kicked Tech's lead back out to six, 55-49, heading into the final 10 minutes of play.
Tech flipped the script in the final period of play. The Golden Eagles opened the quarter on an 8-4 run to take their first double-digit lead of the contest, 63-53. EIU rallied to cut the Golden Eagles lead in half and bring the game back to a two-score contest, 63-58, with 5:37 remaining in the game. That was as close as the Panthers would get. Tech responded on a 3-pointer from Brock to kick things back out to eight points and didn't look back as they outscored the Panthers 7-4 over the final three minutes of play, capping off a 12-4 run, to secure the 75-62 victory.
The Golden Eagles shot 46 percent (9-of-20) from the field, 66 percent (6-of-9) from long-range, and 83 percent (13-of-15) from the free throw line, including a 9-of-9 performance in the final period, over the final 20 minutes of play.
"We made some defensive adjustments between the third and fourth quarter that I thought payed off," said Rosamond. "Those adjustments only work if your players make them work, and our kids executed so well on both ends of the floor in the final period. We were able to get stops on defense and then make crucial plays and hit big shots on the offensive end. Again, the key to our success starts on the defensive end and that was on display the last 10 minutes off the game."
"I like where we are, and I like the improvements we have made in the last 4 weeks," said Rosamond. "But this is also where we were at this point last year. Now we get to see how much we've matured and grown over the last 365 days. We are about to hit the toughest part of our schedule, and the last month of the season will be the biggest challenge we have faced all year. We have to continue to take one game at a time and focus on finishing January strong as we head into a four-game homestand."
The Golden Eagles return home for a two-week homestand, hosting Morehead State on Thursday, January 23 and Eastern Kentucky on Saturday, January 25. Tipoff for both games is set for 5:30 p.m. inside the Hooper Eblen Center.
Photo by Thomas Corhern