By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – When the Tennessee Tech women started the contest trailing 11-1 then 17-6 against Western Kentucky on Sunday, the Golden Eagles proved they still had quite a bit of fight in them.
Instead, the Tech women battled back with a few runs of their own, including a late 8-0 run in the fourth quarter to propel themselves past the hosting Lady Toppers 76-72 at E.A. Diddle Arena.
Now Tech (3-5) will look to build momentum with the victory heading into Thursday's matchup against Western Carolina.
The victory showed that some of the lessons the Golden Eagles have endured through this stretch are creating dividends, learning from those mistakes and learning to play past them.
Turnovers created issues early on as WKU forced Tech into six first-quarter turnovers, then eight more before halftime. Even through that pressure, the Golden Eagles were resolute. Then, in the second half, Tech's ball-handling improved, giving up the ball just five times in the third and just once in the final 10 minutes.
WKU (5-4) got 33 points from Meral Abdelgawad as she was 13-for-18 from the field, 2-for-2 from beyond the arc and 5-for-6 from the charity stripe. She also pulled down 11 rebounds in the effort. Macey Blevins was the only other WKU double-digit scorer with 11 points, going 3-for-9 from 3-point range.
Tech turned the Lady Toppers' physical advantage to a disadvantage, drawing 23 fouls in the contest and earning 32 shots at the line. The Golden Eagles were 23-for-32 in all, including an 8-for-10 night for Anna Jones and 7-for-11 effort from Kesha Brady.
It wasn't just a great night at the line though. It was clutch efforts all around for the Golden Eagles.
Mackenzie Coleman was on fire and created some issues inside for the Lady Toppers. Coleman ended the day 9-for-13 from the field, while also pulling down six rebounds, stealing three balls and blocking another.
Megan Clark was 2-for-4 from 3-point range, but the biggest one probably came at the 5:37 mark in the fourth quarter as she drained a trey to contribute to Tech's 8-0 run in the waning moments of the game. Clark ended the game with 14 points as she was 4-for-8 from the field and 4-for-5 from the stripe. She was the most efficient player in the contest, earning a plus-16 rating on the NCAA box score.
Jada Guinn led the team in rebounds, pulling down seven boards – four offensive – as she also dished out four assists, two steals and blocked a shot.
Jones and Brady drew the ire of the WKU foul assault, combining for 21 of Tech's 32 free throws. Eight of those contributed to Jones' 15 points, while Brady ended with nine, just shy of double-digits.
Tech was whistled 13 times for fouls in total as the Lady Toppers were 11-for-13 from the line.
For the game, the Golden Eagles finished with a great 50.0 shooting percentage, knocking down 24 of their 48 shots. Tech had an improved night from long-range, hitting five of 13 tries, surpassing WKU's average allowed per game.
Tech, even with the slow start, was 7-for-13 from the field in the first quarter, and only saw slight dips in the second and third, hitting 5-for-12 and 6-for-13 respectively. The Golden Eagles took their fewest shots in the fourth quarter with only 10 tried, knocking down six.
The Lady Toppers, however, saw their percentage drop significantly in the second half. After hitting from a 51 percent rate in the first two quarters, WKU was 12-for-30 in the final 20 minutes, including 6-for-16 in the final stanza, 37.5 percent.
After an 11-1 WKU run to open the contest, Tech climbed back within five at 17-12, using a 6-0 run to chip away, then after the Lady Toppers pulled back out by nine – 21-12 – Tech used a 7-0 run to close out the first quarter, WKU leading 21-19.
There wasn't much headway either way in the second quarter as both teams scored 14 points. In the second, Tech tied the game on a Coleman layup in the paint, then took the lead on a Brady free-throw and again on a Jones 3-pointer off of an offensive board by Guinn. Tech led by as many as five points in the quarter, but WKU retook the lead and held the 35-33 advantage at the intermission
The Golden Eagles outscored WKU 22-20 in the third, sending the game into the final quarter knotted up at 55-55. In the fourth, Tech outscored the Lady Toppers 13-5, including an 8-0 run as Coleman hit a layup, Clark drained a three, Jones hit a layup and Guinn knocked down the front end of two free throws before WKU scored again with 3:27 remaining.
The late surge proved to hold as the Lady Toppers cut it down to three points twice – on a pair of Abdelgawad free throws with 90 seconds remaining, then a Blevins 3 with 17 ticks left. Late-game fouls were able to support Tech's effort and the Golden Eagles left Diddle Arena with the victory.
Photo | Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information