By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – There was a time when the matchup between the Austin Peay and Tennessee Tech women helped decide the fate of the Ohio Valley Conference championship. On Saturday, with the Governors and the Golden Eagles taking up two of the three spots in the first-place tie in the standings, it almost feels like an old-school OVC showdown at the Eblen Center.
Tipoff for the game Saturday is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Roger Ealey and Frank Harrell will carry the game on 106.1 The Eagle, while campus station 88.5 WTTU will have the came with Carson Crouch and Franklin McCarthy on the call. Dylan Vazzano and Michael Cooper will broadcast the game on ESPN+ (subscription required).
So the OVC standings look a bit different than they did a week ago. Belmont went from being the lone team at the top to a three-way tie for first as the Golden Eagles topped the Bruins 57-55 last Saturday, then the Governors defeated Belmont 70-68 at the Dunn Center to knot the top spot at 6-2 in the conference.
Even then, the trio at the top have teams breathing down their necks as Murray State is just half a game back at 6-3, Tennessee State a game back at 5-3, then Eastern Illinois and SIUE both at 4-4. As the conference midpoint approaches on Saturday, there's still plenty of time for teams to shift and make their move.
Eastern Illinois tried to catch the Golden Eagles off guard on Monday after Tech came off if its victory over Belmont, but Maaliya Owens caught fire in the fourth quarter – scoring nine of her 14 points in the final 10 minutes – and Anna Jones completed her second career double-double to post a 65-60 win over the Panthers and earn the Golden Eagles their fourth straight win and ninth in the last 11 games.
Belmont lost its second straight conference game on Thursday night as APSU's Karle Pace led all scorers with 25 points on a 9-for-16 night with four 3-pointers, while Yamia Johnson had 22 points – including going 9-for-10 at the charity stripe. The Bruins shot 40 percent from the field in the game and hit 10-for-31 from 3-point range, even as Belmont won the battle on the boards 35 to 24 and had fewer personal fouls.
Conley Chinn put the Bruins within one – 67-66 – with 18 seconds left, but Pace knocked down a pair of free throws with 14 ticks remaining. Tuti Jones missed a 3-pointer and a layup, before Tessa Miller's foul sent Shay-Lee Kirby to the line where she split the two throws.
On the defensive rebound, the ball was pushed inside to Miller on Jamilyn Kinney's assist, draining the layup as time expired for the 70-68 final.
It was the first time Belmont lost back-to-back conference games since the 2015-16 campaign.
For the season as a whole, Johnson leads APSU (13-5, 6-2 OVC) with a 16.3-point average, while Lyric Cole is averaging 5.9 rebounds and Nina de Leon Negron is averaging 3.94 assists. In conference play only, Pace is averaging 17.2 points per game, while shooting .493 from the field, as Johnson is averaging 16.1 points.
In OVC competition, the Governors are averaging 67.4 points, while opponents are scoring 63.8. APSU is shooting .482 from the floor, including .384 from 3-point range and a .693 clip from the free-throw line. On the glass, Peay is collecting 32.3 rebounds to opponents' 30.1.
For the Golden Eagles (11-7, 6-2 OVC), Mackenzie Coleman leads the way with 12.0 points per game, while Anna Jones is averaging 10.7 points and a team-high 6.4 rebounds per game. Jada Guinn leads the team in assists with a 3.6 average, while also hovering near double-digit scoring at 9.7 ppg.
In OVC play, Tech has four players averaging double-digit scoring as Coleman (12.0), Anna Walker (11.5), Guinn (10.9) and Jones (10.3) handle a balanced offense. Jones is averaging 7.0 rebounds with Guinn pulling down 6.0, while Guinn has 25 assists and Peyton Carter 21.
Across the eight OVC contests thus far, Tech is averaging 69.1 points and opponents 63.6. The Golden Eagles are shooting .446, including .338 from beyond the arc and .752 at the free-throw line. Tech is also outrebounding opponents 34.3 to 29.6.
Following Saturday's home contest, the Golden Eagles head to UT Martin on Monday, then to Morehead State on Thursday before returning home Feb. 5 for the rematch with the Bruins at the Eblen Center.
Tickets for Saturday's game are on sale now. Call (931) 372-3940, visit the Hooper Eblen Center ticket office or visit TTUsports.com.
Photo | Jim Dillon