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Tennessee, Tennessee Tech women renew rivalry Wednesday

Tennessee, Tennessee Tech women renew rivalry Wednesday



By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information

KNOXVILLE – It's been a long time since the Tennessee Tech women have faced the Tennessee Lady Vols. There is a rich history between the two programs and their 27 previous meetings – of which the Golden Eagles claimed 11 victories.

Back in the old Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women days before the NCAA officially adopted women's basketball, Tennessee-Tennessee Tech was a common matchup, playing 22 times in the 1970s. But since women's basketball became an NCAA sport in 1982, Tech and the Lady Vols have only played twice, the last time coming thirty years ago in a heated, physical matchup on a cold February night in 1991.

The drought ends Wednesday evening as the Golden Eagles head to Thompson-Boling Arena for just the third time in program history to take on No. 11 Tennessee. Tip-off is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Central. Roger Ealey and Dylan Vazzano will provide the call on 106.1 The Eagle, while Roger Hoover, Steve Hamer and Kasey Funderburg will handle the streaming broadcast on SEC Network+ (subscription required).

There's no question that heading into the home of the winningest women's college basketball program is a bit daunting. It's one of the meccas of the sport, the names are legendary and nearly every player on the Tech team grew up hearing about basketball on Rocky Top.

But on Wednesday, the game against the Lady Vols stands just like any other. It's an opportunity to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the nation's best and prove their worthiness, especially with an important conference stretch standing a month away.

The all-time record stands at 11-16 with the Golden Eagles – then Golden Eaglettes – taking 11 of the first 14 meetings between the two teams from 1970 to 1977. The Lady Vols have taken the last 13 games between the two, but only five of the all-time meetings between the two teams have come outside the confines of the 1970s.

Tech's last win came on March 3, 1977 – a 76-70 victory in the Tennessee College Women's Sports Federation tournament. The Golden Eaglettes had monster games from Pam Cassity (a double-double with 19 points and 15 rebounds), while Pam Chambers had 18 points, Gayle Burgess 17 and Kim Grizzle 12, as Trish Bell came down with a game-high 24 boards. Pat Roberts had 31 points and 18 rebounds for the Lady Vols as she was 11-for-14 at the free-throw line.

The Lady Vols got their revenge just days later in the AIAW Region II tournament, topping the Golden Eaglettes 72-59. Suzanne Barbre, Holly Warlick and Roberts all scored in double-figures, while Grizzle scored 21 and Chambers 14.

The last time these two teams met, back on February 2, 1991, the Lady Vols, en route to their third NCAA national championship, cruised to a 94-67 victory in Knoxville. Tennessee was 28-for-37 at the free-throw line as Angela Moorehead, Renay Adams, Dana Scott and Sherry Batten all fouled out of the game. It didn't stop Moorehead from having a night though as the future TTU Sports Hall of Famer ended the game with 21 points and six rebounds. Tennessee, who scored 51 points in the second half, had a pair of double-doubles as Peggy Evans had 14 points and 10 rebounds, while Daedra Charles had 12 and 12. Dena Head led the Lady Vols with 19 points. Cecilia Ramsey had 18 points and Adams 14 for the Golden Eaglettes.

Tennessee has the most wins all-time with 1,407, while the Golden Eagles are 21st in the NCAA in all-time wins with 974, 26 away from joining 18 other teams currently with 1,000 all-time wins.

While it's neat to reflect on the past between these two storied programs, the present is more important as the two teams prepare to meet up.

Tennessee, now coached by Sparta native Kellie Harper, has a perfect 6-0 start. The No. 11-ranked Lady Vols topped Southern Illinois (59-49), UCF (49-41), South Florida (52-49), Texas (74-70, OT), Kansas (68-58) and Oklahoma State (80-55).

Jordan Horston has led Tennessee in scoring in every game but one and is a triple-threat, leading the Lady Vols in scoring, rebounding and assists. She can also block and steal the ball when the need arises. The junior guard from Columbus, Ohio, is averaging 19.4 points, 11.0 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game, while shooting 43.7 percent from the field and 73.1 percent from the free-throw line.

Rae Burrell is also averaging double-digit scoring at 12.0 points a game, but has only seen action in one game, the season opener against Southern Illinois. She was injured in the contest and has not played since.

Alexus Dye (8.5 ppg, 8.5 rpg) and Tamari Key (8.2 ppg, 9.7 rpg) have also been significant contributors this season for the Lady Vols.

Harper also has a Tennessee Tech connection as her brother, Brent Jolly, had a successful career with the Golden Eagle men's basketball team, helping lead the Tech squad to the quarterfinals of the 2002 National Invitation Tournament under the guidance of head coach Jeff Lebo.

The Golden Eagles, meanwhile, are looking to snap a four-game losing streak. Starting off the campaign with victories over Bethel and Chattanooga, the difficulty ramped up dramatically with losses at Vanderbilt, at home against Middle Tennessee, then in Puerto Rico with newly-minted No. 21 FGCU and New Mexico State.

Just how difficult is the non-conference slate for the Golden Eagles? The non-OVC opponents so far have a combined record of 44-27, including undefeated marks for FGCU and Tennessee.

Tech now has three players averaging double-digit scoring as Jada Guinn and Mackenzie Coleman had strong showings in the two games in the San Juan Shootout. Anna Jones continues to lead the team in scoring average (11.0 ppg) and rebound average (7.0), but Guinn (10.8 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 4.5 apg) and Coleman (10.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg, nine blocks) have joined the ranks. Maaliya Owens (8.8 ppg), Megan Clark (7.3 ppg), Anna Walker (6.2 ppg) and Kesha Brady (6.0 ppg) round out the Tech leaders.

Following the Wednesday contest, the Golden Eagles hit the road again on Sunday to take on Western Kentucky, then to Cullowhee, N.C., to face Western Carolina on Dec. 9. Tech returns home to take on Tennessee Wesleyan on Dec. 16.

Photo | Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information

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