By Jonathan Caudle, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Golden Eagles mounted another impressive second-half performance to lift themselves to an 82-75 win over the Morehead State Eagles on Thursday evening inside the Hooper Eblen Center.
"Really proud of our kids for persevering," expressed head coach Kim Rosamond. "We didn't start well, and I did not like our effort over the first two quarters. Sounds a little bit familiar with the Murray State game, but I thought we were a different team after halftime. Offensively, I thought we were tremendous in the second half. We scored 51 points in the third and fourth quarters, and we needed every point."
"Morehead is a very difficult matchup for us, and we missed our defensive anchor In Anacia Wilkinson, who had nine blocks against them the first game," said Rosamond. "We knew it would be a different defensive game without her, and credit Morehead for having a great game plan and really exploiting some of the mismatches their roster presents. Our kids never panicked, continued to make huge shots and big plays, and fought through whatever obstacles came their way tonight."
Tech improves to 14-4 overall and 7-0 in OVC play, marking the first time Tech opened conference play 7-0 since the 2000-01 season and its longest conference winning streak since the 2010-11 season. The Eagles fall to 7-12 on the season and 3-4 in conference play.
Tennessee Tech's starting lineup combined for 72 of the Golden Eagles 82 points as four Golden Eagles tallied double-digit performances. Junior Jordan Brock, the Golden Eagles Special Olympics Player of the Game, led the way with a season-high 21 points, shooting 70 percent (7-of-10) from the field, 57 percent (4-of-7) from 3-point range, and 60 percent (3-of-5) from the line. She added four assists, and a season-high two blocks, in addition to a rebound.
Juniors Kesha Brady and Mackenzie Coleman followed closely behind with 19 and 16 points respectively. Coleman picked up her first double-double of the season as she cleaned up the glass for the Golden Eagles with 11 rebounds. Senior Akia Harris rounded out Tech's double-digit scorers with a season-high 13 points in the win, adding a game-high seven assists and a team-high two steals in the win.
"Jordan Brock gave us a huge boost tonight with her play in the third quarter," expressed Rosamond. "Any time Jordan gets going like she did, it just lifts our team. She was so confident and so poised, and she also worked her tail off on the defensive end because they were going at her in one-on-one situations. Kesha Brady was relentless attacking the basket and made some clutch plays down the stretch. Your most experienced players have to step up in tight games, and our players did that during crucial times."
The opening two quarters were a struggle for Tech. The Golden Eagles shot 38.7 percent (12-of-31) from the field but couldn't get anything to fall from long-range as they knocked down just 10 percent (1-of-10) of their balls from three. Tech shot 60 percent (6-of-10) from the line over the first half.
The first period opened to a 6-6 tie before the Eagles went on a 10-7 run over the final five minutes of the period to take a 16-13 lead after one.
Tech responded with three unanswered to even the game at 16. The game remained close through a pair of ties through a 27-27 stalemate with 5:13 to play in the half. Morehead State retook the momentum after a 3-pointer from Elston to spark an 11-4 run over the final five minutes of play and put Tech at a seven-point deficit heading into the break.
The Golden Eagles completely turned things around in the second half. Tech slowly closed the gap as Brock knocked down three 3-pointers, including a pair of back-to-back long-range buckets to continue a 14-6 Tech run and push the Golden Eagles to their first lead since the first three minutes of the game. The two squads battled over the final six minutes of play to an eventual 58-58 standstill heading into the final period of play.
Morehead State responded to a pair of Golden Eagle buckets to even the game at 60 and 62 over the first two minutes of the fourth, but that was as close as they would get. Tech dominated the final eight minutes of play. Tech went on a 15-5 run to take a double-digit lead with 2:11 to play. The Eagles would close things within eight, 79-71, at the 1:23-minute mark, but the Golden Eagles let the clock run out and seal their seventh conference win of the season, 82-75.
"We struggled getting defensive stops tonight," said Rosamond. "Our transition defense was disappointing especially after we scored. Morehead just pushed the ball down our throats and kept us on our heels much of the game. Defense has been our strength all season, and we have to get back to out-working our opponent for 40 minutes."
The Golden Eagles shot an impressive 59.4 percent (19-of-32) from the field, 42.9 percent (6-of-14) from 3-point range, and 63.6 percent (7-of-11) from the line. Tech outscored the Eagles 51-37 over the final 20 minutes of play to secure the comeback victory.
"There is a lot of important basketball left to be played," expressed Rosamond. "These last five weeks will be a fun and interesting stretch. Anyone can beat anyone on any given night in this league. We don't need to get caught up in records, or how many games we have won in a row because none of it will matter until the end of this year. We just need to continue to take it one game at a time, and that next opportunity will be on Saturday against EKU."
The Golden Eagles remain at home as they host the Eastern Kentucky Colonels on Saturday inside the Hooper Eblen Center. Tipoff is slated for 5:30 p.m. on WCTE, ESPN+, and 106.1 The Eagle.
Photo by Thomas Corhern