By Jonathan Caudle, TTU Sports Information
MARTIN, Tenn. – Tennessee Tech women's basketball came up short on Thursday evening, falling 71-62 against the UT Martin Skyhawks inside the Kathleen and Tom Elam Center.
The Golden Eagles fall to 16-6 on the season and 9-2 in conference play. UT Martin improves to 14-8 overall and 10-1 in conference play.
"It was a hard-fought game and what you would expect from two teams battling for the top spot in the league," expressed head coach Kim Rosamond. "It was a two-point game with three minutes left, and you have to give credit to Martin. They made plays down the stretch and we didn't. We weren't able to overcome turnovers or poor shooting from both the floor and free throw line in the fourth quarter."
Three Golden Eagles tallied double-digit totals with junior Kesha Brady leading the way with 17 points in the contest. Brady shot 5-of-13 from the field, 4-of-10 from 3-point range, and 3-of-4 from the line. She also tied for a team-high seven rebounds.
The Skyhawks were led by the OVC leader in scoring, Chelsey Perry. Perry netted 37 points in the contest, shooting 16-of-25 from the field, 1-of-2 from 3-point range, and going 4-of-4 from the line. She also pulled down eight rebounds and blocked a team-high three shots.
The first 10 minutes of play was a back-and-forth battle. UT Martin opened the contest on a 4-2 run to take the early advantage, but the Golden Eagles responded with seven unanswered points to hold a 9-4 lead. The Skyhawks came right back to even the score at 12. A huge 3-pointer from Abby Buckner put the Golden Eagles back on top 17-16, but UT Martin closed out the opening frame on a 6-3 run to take a two-point advantage after the first, 22-20.
The Skyhawks maintained the momentum into the second quarter as they outscored Tech 6-2 over the first five minutes of play to hold a 28-22 lead at the final media timeout of the half. UTM netted three more points to take a nine-point lead, 31-22, at the 4:36 minute mark. However, Tech locked in over the following two minutes of clock to hold the Skyhawks scoreless and net 14 unanswered points to lead 36-33 with 2:38 to play. UT Martin eventually drew a foul with a second remaining to capture two free throws to send things into the break with Tech up by one, 36-35.
The Golden Eagles outshot the Skyhawks in the opening half, shooting 52 percent from the field, 46 percent from 3-point range, and 86 percent from the free throw line. UT Martin shot 44 percent from the field, 25 percent from long-range, and 71 percent from the line over the first 20 minutes.
The third period opened to a UT Martin run, giving the Skyhawks a 46-40 lead at the halfway point of the quarter. However, Tech keyed in once again to hold UT Martin to only four more points during a 9-2 run, capped by a huge long-range bucket from Brock to give the Golden Eagles the 49-48 advantage with a little under two minutes to play. The Skyhawks netted one more basket to retake the lead and bring the deficit to one, 50-49, with 10 minutes to play.
The Golden Eagles opened the fourth period on back-to-back 3-pointers from Mackenzie Coleman to give Tech a 55-52 advantage at the 8:22-minute mark. The Skyhawks retook the lead and Tech kept the game within two, 64-62, following a pair of Coleman free throws with a little over three minutes to play, but the Skyhawks closed out the contest on a 7-0 run to eventually take the 71-62 victory.
The Skyhawks caused 19 Tech turnovers, while only giving it up 12 times themselves. The Golden Eagles outrebounded UT Martin 13-12 on the offensive glass, but the Skyhawks outscored Tech 17-9 on second chance points. The Skyhawks also dominated the post, outscoring Tech 42-18 in the paint.
"Chelsey Perry is just special. She could play in any conference in the country," said Rosamond. "Every time Martin needed a bucket, she went and got it. I don't think people understand how good our league is and the caliber of players we have in the OVC. This is a Martin team that took the No. 5 team in the country, Louisville, into overtime on this court in December. I am disappointed with the outcome, but there were also no trophies being handed out tonight. I thought our effort was solid, but our execution and decision making, especially down the stretch, was just not as good as it needed to be. There were a lot of positives as well as lessons to take away from tonight and use when we see them again in a few weeks in Cookeville."
"We get an opportunity to bounce back against the hottest team in the league in 36 hours against SEMO," said Rosamond. "They have won eight straight games and are playing as well as anyone in the OVC. It will take a total team effort from everyone, but this team is more than capable of finding a way on Saturday."
The Golden Eagles continue their road trip on Saturday as they head to Cape Girardeau, Mo. to take on the Southeast Missouri Redhawks. Tipoff is slated for 2 p.m. CT
Photo by Thomas Corhern