By Jonathan Caudle, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Tech women's basketball survived a double-overtime thriller on Saturday, defeating the Eastern Kentucky Colonels 87-82 inside the Hooper Eblen Center. It marked the Golden Eagles' fourth-straight victory over the Colonels.
"That is the Eastern Kentucky that we saw in non-conference play who was the most improved team in the league," said head coach Kim Rosamond. "They were really good early in the season. They took Vanderbilt to the wire in Nashville, and they beat Xavier and Mercer on the road. They were without two key players at the start of conference play. They had one of those kids back tonight in Terri Goodlett, and she dropped 20 on us. Their staff had a great game plan, their kids played really hard and made big-time plays all night. But I can't say enough about our team's heart and will. They refused to lose tonight even when it felt like we couldn't get in a good rhythm on either end of the court. There is no quit in our locker room, and this was just a gritty finish by our players."
The Golden Eagles improved to 15-4, remaining unbeaten in OVC play with an 8-0 mark, the best start to conference play since the 2000-01 season. The Colonels fell to 8-11 on the season and 2-6 in conference play.
Four Golden Eagles recorded double-digit performances through the six-period affair. Senior Akia Harris led the way for Tech, producing her best performance of the season. She was named the Special Olympics Player of the Game, scoring a season-high 19 points, while shooting 50 percent (8-of-16) from the field and 60 percent (3-of-5) from 3-point range. Harris also led the team with a pair of steals and recorded the team's only block in the contest. Juniors Kesha Brady, Jordan Brock, and Mackenzie Coleman followed right behind, tallying 18, 17, and 16 points respectively. Coleman, fellow junior Abby Buckner, and freshman Jada Guinn tied for a team-high seven boards, while Buckner dished out a team and career-high seven assists in the win.
"Players win games, and I thought our veterans took over tonight when our back was against the wall. Jordan, Akia, Kesha and Kenzie were huge down the stretch. Buckner's leadership and toughness doesn't show on a stat sheet, but she was a key piece to finding a way to win tonight."
The opening half was a back-and-forth battle between the Golden Eagles and the Colonels. Following a 13-8 EKU lead at the 5:28-minute mark, the Golden Eagles scored nine unanswered points to take a four-point advantage in less than two minutes of play, 17-13. Tech maintained the lead through the end of the period as they led 23-21 after the first.
EKU opened the second on a 7-0 run to retake a 28-23 advantage. Tech responded and held the Colonels to only two points over the following three minutes of clock to mount an 11-2 run and take a 34-30 lead with a little over three minutes to play. Eastern Kentucky went on a 10-4 run over the final minutes of the half, including a buzzer-beating layup to take a two-point advantage into the break.
The Colonels shot 52 percent (17-of-33) from the field and 44 percent (4-of-9) from 3-point range, while the Golden Eagles shot 42 percent (13-of-31) from the field and 35 percent (6-of-17) from long-range.
Tech opened the second half on a 15-5 run to retake the lead, 53-45. The Golden Eagles maintained their eight-point advantage over the following three minutes of clock before a drawn foul by Taylor Lamb turned into a pair of free throws to give the Golden Eagles their first and only double-digit lead of the contest at the 2:50-minute mark of the third, 59-49. Eastern Kentucky produced an 8-4 run over the final three minutes of the period to bring the deficit down to six heading into the final 10 minutes of play, 63-57.
Eastern Kentucky opened the scoring in the fourth period to bring the lead down to four, 63-59. The two teams traded buckets back and forth over the following seven minutes of clock until the Golden Eagles held a 71-67 advantage. The Colonels scored six unanswered to take a 73-71 lead with 2:16 to play. Brady netted a layup to bring things back even before a huge 3-pointer from Brock gave the Golden Eagles a three-point lead with 29 seconds to play. However, the Colonels had an answer as Qay Stanton knocked down a 3-pointer with six seconds to play to send things into overtime.
The Golden Eagles turned things around offensively in the second half, shooting an impressive 58 percent (15-of-26) from the field, 40 percent (4-of-10) from 3-point range, and 67 percent (4-of-6) from the line during the second half.
Eastern Kentucky scored four unanswered to go up by four at the 2:44-minute mark of the first overtime period, but a pair of layups from Coleman and Brady evened up the game at 80 with 1:46 to play. Neither team would score again to send the game into a second and final overtime period.
The Golden Eagles dominated the final five minutes of play. Brady opened up the second overtime period with an and-1 layup to give Tech a three-point advantage. She tacked on two more free throws to put Tech up by five, before the Colonels netted a jump shot to bring the game back within three, but that was as close as it got. Tech closed out the contest with another free throw from Brady and one from Guinn to secure the 87-82 victory.
Tech had trouble preventing the Colonels from scoring in the lane as EKU posted a 52-40 advantage in the paint, but the Golden Eagles were able to make the most of their second-chance points, outscoring the Colonels 20-9. The win marked the Golden Eagles' first-ever double-overtime victory in program history.
"Our conditioning payed off in the extra periods, and that's a credit to the work our strength Coach Matt Hewett has put in with our players I thought we had just a little bit more gas left in the tank than they did in that second overtime. There is a lot to clean up and get better before Thursday, but I think we can all be proud of those young women in Tech uniforms tonight."
The Golden Eagles remain in Cookeville as they prepare to host in-state rival Belmont on Thursday, Jan. 30. Tipoff is slated for 5 p.m. inside the Hoop.
Photo by Thomas Corhern