By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information
EVANSVILLE, Ind. – The Tennessee Tech women rang in the New Year with a thrilling victory over Murray State at the CFSB Center. A week later, the Racers claimed the upper hand early and never looked back in a lopsided win at the Eblen Center.
On Friday, it'll be a showdown at the Ford Center as Murray State and the Tennessee Tech women will square off for the third time, the victor earning a spot in the championship game of the Ohio Valley Conference Basketball Championships in Evansville, Ind.
Murray State topped SIUE 84-76 in Wednesday's quarterfinal to advance, while the Golden Eagles (19-9) will see their first action of the tournament by virtue of the double merit byes.
Tipoff is slated for 3:30 p.m. on Friday. Dylan Vazzano and Frank Harrell will have the call on 106.1 The Eagle, while Connor Onion and Helen Williams will have the call on ESPN+ (subscription required).
When the teams first met on January 1, the Golden Eagles fell behind as the Racers outscored Tech 13-8 in the second quarter. A furious rally in the fourth quarter saw Tech score 24 points in the final 10 minutes to Murray's 17. Tech won the game 65-62.
Jada Guinn had a double-double in the contest, scoring 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting with 14 rebounds. All-OVC newcomer Anna Walker and All-OVC second-teamer Mackenzie Coleman had identical nights, scoring 13 points and pulling down six boards each.
Anna Jones, the Golden Eagles' current leader in scoring and rebounds and All-OVC first-teamer, missed the contest with illness but was back in the meeting a week later.
Katelyn Young, the OVC Player of the Year, had 24 points and seven rebounds in the game as she was 9-for-19 from the field and 5-for-6 from the free-throw line. Hannah McKay had 13 points and Macey Turley scored 10 points.
The meeting a week later was one the Golden Eagles would like to get back. The Racers shot a blistering 72.7 percent in the first quarter, then held Tech to just three points as the Golden Eagles were 1-for-13 from the field, hitting one of their 13 shots. The Racers led 34-13 at the half. Tech was outscored 18-13 in the third, then outscored Murray 19-18 in the fourth to close the game with a 70-45 loss.
The Racers finished the game shooting 29-of-50 from the field, while the Golden Eagles were 16-for-54.
Walker was the only Golden Eagle to score in double figures, collecting 16 points, while Jones had nine points and seven rebounds. Murray had a trio of double-digit scorers as Young had 19 points on 7-of-9 shooting, McKay had 16 of 7-of-9 shooting and Alexis Burpo had 13 points on 6-of-8 from the field.
The Golden Eagles were 6-of-20 from the 3-point line in the game.
In conference play alone, Young averaged 20.5 points and 7.8 rebounds, blocking 13 shots and collecting 14 steals. She was a .538 shooter from the floor, .353 from beyond the arc and .896 at the free-throw line, hitting a team-best 103-of-115. McCay averaged 12.9 points and 6.4 rebounds, Turley 12.5 points and 3.5 rebounds and Burpo 11.4 points and 7.4 rebounds.
As a team, the Racers (22-8) averaged 73.4 points a night, while allowing 62.4. MSU shot .486 as a team, .369 from 3 and .806 at the line, the conference's best in free-throws made and percentage, field goal percentage.
Murray State jumped out to a 19-10 lead on the Cougars and never looked back. McKay (21 pts., 10 rebs.) and Burpo (12 pts., 11 rebs.) each recorded double-doubles, while Young had a game-high 25 points and nine rebounds, while Turley had 10 points. The Racers were 50.8 percent (30-of-59) from the field, 5-for-14 (35.7) from long-range and 19-for-20 (95.0) at the free-throw line.
The Golden Eagles were second in the conference and fifth in the country in free-throws attempted (596) and 10th in the country in free-throws made (420). However, getting to the line could prove difficult – the Racers, at the conclusion of the regular season, were the nation's leader in fewest fouls per game at a scant 11.1.
As a team in conference play, the Tech squad averaged 67.2 points a game and allowed an average of 60.8. The Golden Eagles shot .430 from the floor, .337 from 3 and .704 from the line. Jones averaged 15.3 points and has a current 12-game streak of double-digit scoring. She also leads the team with an 8.1-rebound average. Coleman averaged 11.3 points and 5.4 rebounds, while also blocking 23 shots and stealing the ball 25 times in OVC competition.
Walker averaged 9.6 points and 4.5 rebounds with 15 blocks, while Guinn averaged 9.4 points and 5.8 rebounds with 66 assists, 11 blocks and 24 steals in league play.