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Golden Eagles overcome Murray to advance to Saturday OVC final

Golden Eagles overcome Murray to advance to Saturday OVC final

By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information

EVANSVILLE, Ind. – Murray State led for the majority of the game. Tennessee Tech led when it mattered. A furious effort in the fourth quarter – outscoring the Racers 24-11 in the final 10 minutes – proved to be the push the Golden Eagles needed to send Murray State to the OVC exit, claiming a 68-62 victory over the Racers on Friday in the Ohio Valley Conference Basketball Championship semifinals.

The Golden Eagles, winning their 20th game of the season to give the program its 29th 20-plus-win season in its 52 seasons, will take on Belmont on Saturday. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m. from the Ford Center. Dylan Vazzano and Frank Harrell will have the call on 106.1 The Eagle, while Connor Onion and Helen Williams will broadcast the game on ESPN+ (subscription required).

The victory sends Tech to the OVC championship game for the first time since 2013. It will be the Golden Eagles' 23rd appearance in the title game. Tech Is 9-13 all-time in the OVC title game and is looking for its first victory in the league finale since 2000. A win will send the Golden Eagles to the NCAA Tournament for the 11th time in program history.

About that fourth quarter though – Anna Walker and Jada Guinn were electric as the duo combined for 14 of the Golden Eagles' 24 points in the final 10 minutes, each scoring seven points. Walker was 3-for-3 from the floor, weaving into the paint around OVC Player of the Year Katelyn Young to get some crucial baskets and pulling down seven boards to keep the Racers away from the second-chance rebounds. Guinn was 3-for-5 in the stretch, while also collecting two boards and two assists.

The defense came through, holding the Racers to a 3-for-17 effort from the floor in the fourth quarter – a stark contrast to the hot shooting in the first (7-of-12, 56.3 percent) and the white-hot shooting in the third (10-of-14, 71.4 percent).

Defense created offense as the Golden Eagles found a rhythm, knocking down 10 of their 18 shots even after going 0-for-3 from long-range as Tech was able to work inside against Young's imposing presence.

Tech finished the game with three double-digit scorers as Walker led the way with 19 points and nine rebounds, while Anna Jones had 15 points and five caroms. Both players were 7-for-11 from the field, Walker 3-for-3 from the free-throw line and 2-for-4 from beyond the arc.

Guinn flirted with a triple-double as she scored 12 points, while pulling down six boards and dishing out seven assists.

Young was still a force in the contest, finishing the game with 22 points and 10 rebounds, showing exactly why she was the league's choice for Player of the Year. She was 9-for-18 from the floor and 4-for-4 from the line. Macey Turley finished with 12 points, while Alexis Burpo had 10.

In a game with the conference's top two free-throw drawing teams, there surprisingly wasn't a lot of action at the stripe. Tech did draw 13 visits to the line, knocking down eight shots, while the Racers were 9-for-10.

Murray rushed out to a 7-2 lead at the 6:36 mark, but the Golden Eagles were able to cut it back down to two points two minutes later, then even to one point. However, the Racers surged again, advancing out by six points – 16-10 – with just under a minute remaining in the quarter. Mackenzie Coleman scored her lone bucket of the contest with 20 seconds left and that 16-12 Racer lead was where the first quarter ended.

Megan Clark tied the game at 3:16 remaining before halftime to erase a 3-point deficit with a long-range shot, then she hit a pull-up jumper to give Tech its first lead of the contest. Jones followed up with a 3-points for a 27-22 advantage – which would be Tech's biggest lead until there were seven seconds remaining in the ball game.

Young drained back-to-back buckets, the latter with one second remaining on the clock, sending the teams to the locker rooms with the Golden Eagles up by one – 27-26.

She was commanding in the third quarter, knocking down four of her six shots in the period and hitting two free throws for 10 points. After some back-and-forth with the lead, the Racers were able to extend their lead out to eight points around the three-minute mark, then seven – 51-44 – as the third came to a close.

Barely two minutes into the start of the final period, the Golden Eagles opened the quarter on a 6-0 run with Jones, Guinn and Clark making unanswered buckets to cut the deficit to one – 51-50. Young was able to prop Murray back up by four – 56-52 – but a three-point play success for Walker, followed by a layup for her on the following possession put Tech back on top 57-56 with 4:52 remaining.

Burpo gave Murray the lead back as she hit both of her free-throws, but Walker intercepted a pass and went the distance for a layup to put Tech back on top 59-58. The lead swapped four more times as Burpo scored the Racers' final bucket with 2:07 remaining in the game, leading 62-61.

From there, the Golden Eagles scored seven unanswered points to put the game away. Guinn hit a layup with 1:45 left to give Tech the one-point lead, then Clark extended it out to three with 1:19 left on a second-chance try.

The Racers missed two 3-point tries to knot the game up, forcing Murray to foul to try to get the ball back. They send Kesha Brady to the line with 25 seconds left and she made both to put Tech up 67-62. Guinn nailed the first of her two free throws for what was the final margin.

Murray State missed its final five shots and hit only two of its last 15, eclipsing its hot start.

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