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Golden Eagles hand Belmont first OVC loss

Golden Eagles hand Belmont first OVC loss

By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sport Information

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Saturday showed why games aren't decided on paper – they're decided on the floor. In a battle to the finish, the Tennessee Tech women showed just why they belong in Ohio Valley Conference championship contention, handing Belmont its first loss in OVC play in seven games.

Anna Jones hit a layup with just seconds left in the contest and Belmont could not get a shot to fall as time expired and the Golden Eagles survived their final visit to the Curb Event Center with a 57-55 victory. The win broke Belmont's 16-game winning streak against OVC competition and the Golden Eagles are the first team to win three games against the Bruins at the Curb Event Center in OVC play.

Tech (10-7, 5-2 OVC) will get to celebrate the win Saturday, but will be back to work on Sunday to prepare for Monday's visit from Eastern Illinois. Tipoff against the Panthers is scheduled for a 6 p.m. start from the Eblen Center.

After the coaches received a Gatorade shower from the student-athletes, the excitement was contagious.

"I'm a little cold and wet," joked Tech head coach Kim Rosamond, "but what we went through to get that, I don't mind it a bit. I'm happy for these players. They've worked extremely hard and it's been a challenging early schedule. This is what we hoped for – get to January and do this, then continue on into February to follow it through and finish strong.

"We've got to go back to work, because we have a very good EIU team coming in on Monday. They had a huge win over Murray State on Thursday night and they can score with the basketball. This league is good. There's no easy games, so we've got to enjoy this today, but come back tomorrow and get back to work."

The best way to describe the game was a battle.

"I am beyond proud of our team's toughness and grit," Rosamond said. "It wasn't pretty. It was definitely a defensive slugfest, so to speak. Who would have thought that in a game with two of the best offenses in the league? Our kids' effort was phenomenal and we got it done on the defensive end today."

Belmont's in-conference statistics entering the game were daunting, including its smallest margin of victory standing at 15 points against Murray State in its first six league games.

On Saturday, it was the Golden Eagles who posted the better statistics. Tech won the field goal percentage battle, shooting 42.2 to Belmont's 38.2. The Golden Eagles hit eight of their 19 3-pointers to seven of 26 for Belmont. Tech also won the free-throw battle in an uncharacteristic night for both teams, the Golden Eagles were 11-of-20, Belmont 6-of-14.

The interesting stat, though? Belmont led once. Two ties, one lead change. The Golden Eagles controlled the advantage for 36:29 of the full 40-minute contest.

"I want to credit (assistant coach) Melanie (Wall's) game plan," Rosamond said. "She had the scout and put together a fantastic game plan today then our kids went out and just executed as well as we could have asked for, especially on the defensive end.

"The fourth quarter wasn't pretty, but what I loved about it is that it showed growth. Even though we struggled offensively, we continued to defend. That's where I think the strength of our early schedule and those tough games has come through. It's only lessons if you apply it. Our kids have taken those lessons and we've grown. Now, we just have to make sure we continue to be a consistent basketball team. If we can continue to get that grit, that toughness, we are a very good basketball team."

It was far from a one-sided contest though as the homestanding Bruins continued to fight. After the Golden Eagles went up 14-9 at the end of the first quarter. Tech outscored Belmont 7-2 to make it a 21-11 lead at 5:49 left before the intermission, but the Bruins roared back with a 12-3 run to make it a one-point, 24-23 Tech lead at the half.

The Golden Eagles pushed its lead back out to nine with 5:10 left in the third, outscoring Belmont 13-5, but the Bruins weren't fazed, making it a two-point game at 40-38 with 1:13 left in the third on a Tuti Jones layup. Tech was able to retake a six-point lead as Anna Jones hit a layup with three seconds to go in the third. She then hit a jumper early in the fourth to get the Golden Eagles back up by eight – 46-38 – with nine minutes left, the largest lead in the final period.

Belmont found a rhythm though, outscoring Tech 13-5 and tying the game with 4:40 remaining on a second-chance try by Madison Bartley. Peyton Carter hit a free-throw, then Kesha Brady knocked down a pair to get back up by three. Tessa Miller followed with a layup, Mackenzie Coleman split a pair of charity tosses, then Destinee Wells tied the game on a driving layup with 21 seconds remaining.

With the ball, the Golden Eagles worked the ball inside to Anna Jones. Under pressure, she tossed the ball up. It rolled around the outer lip and fell through to take a 57-55 lead with just five seconds left on the clock.

"What a clutch play," Rosamond said. "She just made a play. She really didn't have a shot and wasn't going to be denied. She found a way to make a play. We had an opportunity to not make it so interesting at the end, but our kids continued to fight and battle. That's what I'm so proud of."

After a 30-second timeout to advance the ball, Bartley and Conley Chinn both missed shots and couldn't try for a third as the clock ran out.

Anna Jones ended the game with 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting, pulling down four rebounds. Carter had a career-high 13 points and six boards as she was a driving force in the contest with four 3-pointers. Brady scored all six of her points at the free-throw line and collected nine rebounds, while Guinn was a floor general, dishing out four assists to go with her eight points. Anna Walker had nine points and four rebounds.

"You know, we were down several players again today. We traveled 10 of our 15 players and we're still down a key player on our roster in Megan Clark, so to be able to go on the road and gut it out in a very difficult environment, I'm just really proud of our players. Everyone who hit the floor had some great minutes. Peyton Carter hit some huge 3-pointers. Anna Jones made big, big, big plays after another. Kesha Brady rebounded the ball well and did a great job getting to the free-throw line and finishing when she got there. I'm just proud of each and every one of our players."

Tuti Jones led Belmont (10-6, 6-1 OVC) with 16 points and five rebounds, while Wells had 14 points, four rebounds and four assists.

Photo | Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information


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