By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information
SAN JUAN, P.R. – While most are gathering with their families this holiday weekend carving into the turkey and preparing for the holiday shopping, the Tennessee Tech women's basketball team is hard at work on the sunny shores of Puerto Rico as the Golden Eagles compete in the San Juan Shootout.
Tech will play FGCU on Friday at 3:45 p.m., while taking on New Mexico State on Saturday at 1:30. It is the first meeting between the Golden Eagles against either team in the all-time program history.
The San Juan Shootout is the 52nd in-season tournament for Tech in the program's 52 seasons of play, posting a 49-66 record all-time.
Dylan Vazzano will have the radio call for both games on 106.1 The Eagle, while the games will be streamed via FloHoops (subscription required).
Tech (2-2) certainly has its work cut out for it with this weekend's opponents. FGCU, standing at 5-0, recently earned its way into the Associated Press Top 25 – the eighth time the Eagles have been ranked by the AP voters.
FGCU is the top 3-point shooting team in the nation, averaging 13.6 long-range buckets a game on a .347 clip. The Eagles have hit 68 of 196 3-point shots through just five games. Kierstan Bell, an Ohio State transfer, leads the nation in scoring with 26.6 points per game while shooting .554 from the field and .727 from the charity stripe. She also averages a team-high 9.6 rebounds and has eight blocks.
Kendall Spray, a Clemson transfer by way of UT Martin before that, leads FGCU in 3-pointers, hitting 25 of her 39 tries for a phenomenal .641 percentage. The Mt. Juliet native is averaging 16.0 points per game as well.
Tishara Morehouse, the team's leader in assists, is also averaging 13.6 points per game.
FGCU is averaging 12 steals and 18 assists per game, while also pulling down 37.2 boards per outing. The Eagles are averaging 86.8 points and allowing 57.2 per game. FGCU's closest game this season was an 88-74 victory at LSU, where Bell scored a season-best 32 points for the first of her three double-doubles this season.
The Eagles also defeated Florida Memorial (105-41), Temple (70-53), Manhattan (88-57) and Fairfield (83-61).
This isn't recent success for FGCU as 20-year Eagle head coach Karl Smesko has a 524-98 record at the helm, and, under his direction, the team has been the NCAA leader in 3-pointers four of the last 10 seasons, second for two more of those. FGCU has won 210 games from the beginning of this season to the previous seven, with only UConn, Baylor, South Carolina and Maryland winning more games.
New Mexico State, at 2-1, is bouncing off of a 76-61 loss at UTEP a week ago, breaking a string of back-to-back wins over Western New Mexico (94-40) and Incarnate Word (57-48).
The Aggies currently have four players averaging in double-figure scoring, led by Bigue Sarr with 12,3 points and a team-high 7.0 assists per game. Molly Kaiser (11.7 ppg), Taylor Donaldson (11.3 ppg) and Tayelin Grays (11.0 ppg) are also nearby on the scoring charts.
New Mexico State is averaging 70.7 points and allowing 54.7 points a game, while also averaging 37.7 rebounds, 13 assists and 8.67 steals a game.
However, the Golden Eagles certainly are used to a challenging schedule this season. After winning the first two games of the season against Bethel and Chattanooga, Tech's difficulty ramped up tremendously with Vanderbilt and Middle Tennessee, continuing with this week's action, then a mid-week contest next week in Knoxville at Thompson-Boling Arena against Tennessee, and that's not even the end of the non-conference gauntlet.
After the first two games of the season, Tech averaged 85 points and allowed 52 points per game, while pulling down 42 rebounds a night. Against Vandy and the Lady Raiders, the numbers dipped – averaging 51 points on offense, 70 on defense, while the assists dropped to 8.5 per game from 21.5.
Currently, Anna Jones leads the Golden Eagles in scoring with a 13.3-point average – the only Tech player presently with a double-digit average – while Jada Guinn (9.8 ppg), Maaliya Owens (9.5 ppg), Mackenzie Coleman (9.0 ppg) and Anna Walker (8.8 ppg) are close by. Jones is also the team's leading rebounder, averaging 8.8 caroms a game, while Guinn is dishing out five assists per game.
Through four games, Tech is averaging 68 points on offense and 61 points allowed and controlling the boards by a 39-29.8 margin. The Golden Eagles are shooting .427 from the field, .264 from 3-point range and .729 from the line.
Photo | Jim Dillon