By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – It's down to the last couple weeks of the Ohio Valley Conference's regular-season slate. Four games for the Tennessee Tech women and still so much still up in the air.
Fortunately for the Golden Eagles, three of the four are at home at the Hooper Eblen Center. However, it won't be a simple game in any of the remaining contests.
Thursday, the Tech women host a Southeast Missouri team that came within one possession of beating league leader Belmont. Saturday, the Golden Eagles travel to Clarksville to take on an Austin Peay squad that handed the Bruins a consecutive loss after Tech was victorious in the Curb Event Center. Next week, the Golden Eagles host a Tennessee State squad that beat them to open conference play, then host a UT Martin squad that has finally found its footing and is surging in the standings.
So what does that mean? Every game is important.
The Golden Eagles (16-8, 11-3 OVC) will tackle the first of those challenges on Thursday night against Southeast Missouri. Tipoff from the Eblen Center is set for 5:30 p.m. Roger Ealey and Tyler Brown will handle the broadcast on 106.1 The Eagle, Dylan Vazzano and Frank Harrell will cover the game over on ESPN+ (subscription required) and Carson Crouch and Franklin McCarthy will have the call on campus for 88.5 WTTU.
As for the standings, they're close. Belmont is holding on fast to its one-game lead over the Golden Eagles, winning six straight games since Tech and Austin Peay handed the Bruins their first consecutive OVC losses since 2015-16. But there's not much breathing room at the top, especially with Murray State and Austin Peay hot on the Bruins and Golden Eagles' heels.
Belmont is 12-2 in the league, followed by Tech at 11-3. Murray State and Austin Peay are at 10-4, but the Racers and the Governors play tonight, meaning one of those teams will scoot a little bit closer before Thursday's contest tips off.
However, Eastern Illinois (8-6), UT Martin (7-7), Tennessee State (6-8) and SIUE (5-9) are far from out of the race. All are almost assured of a spot in the OVC Basketball Championships in Evansville with Southeast Missouri (1-13) and Morehead State (0-14) four and five games back from the eighth-place Cougars respectively – and that's what makes all of those contests dangerous ones for the Golden Eagles and the other OVC teams at the top of the pack.
Southeast Missouri, with its lone league win coming over Morehead State, nearly toppled Belmont this past Saturday in a contest that went down to the final possession with the Bruins emerging the victors 70-67. Belmont led 36-24 at the half, but the Redhawks battled back, outscoring the Bruins in the third and fourth quarters to make it a tight game. SEMO had its opportunity, but couldn't find its window for a potential game-tying shot as time expired.
Roshala Scott put the Redhawks on her shoulders and put together a clutch performance against the Bruins, shooting 8-for-12 from the field and 7-for-7 at the free-throw line for 25 points, then pulling down seven rebounds and dishing out five assists. Taelour Pruitt and Deanay Watson added 10 each.
Scott and Watson lead SEMO in scoring for the season, averaging 11.2 points per game each, while Watson leads the team in rebounds with 5.8 boards per team. Pruitt is also averaging 10.0 points, while Kennedi Watkins is averaging 5.6 rebounds.
For the Golden Eagles, Anna Jones – who earned her second OVC Player of the Week honor of the season on Tuesday – is leading Tech in scoring with a 12.8 points per game average and in rebounds with 6.9 boards a night. Mackenzie Coleman is averaging 11.9 points and 5.4 rebounds, while Jada Guinn is averaging 9.6 points and 5.3 rebounds.
Tech has won its last two games, nine of its last 10 and 14 of its last 17 games en route to its current second-place standing in the conference race.
Thursday's game is also the Golden Eagles' annual Play4Kay game with fans encouraged to wear pink in support of the cancer awareness effort.
Tickets for Thursday's game are on sale now – call (931) 372-3940, visit the Eblen Center ticket office or visit TTUsports.com to order.