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Golden Eagles look to lasso Mustangs in Thursday's WNIT opener

Golden Eagles look to lasso Mustangs in Thursday's WNIT opener


By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information

DALLAS, Texas – The Tennessee Tech women's basketball team has landed in Dallas and now it's back to work for the Golden Eagle squad as they prepare for the first round of the Women's National Invitation Tournament.

This time of year, it's all about survive and advance and that's the mission Thursday night as the Golden Eagles enter Moody Coliseum to take on the SMU Mustangs.

Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. The game will be streamed live on SMU's athletics website. Dylan Vazzano will provide the call on radio on 106.1 The Eagle.

With a 14-14 record and a 7-7 finish in the American Athletic Conference, SMU might look on paper to be a ripe target, but the record is certainly deceiving. Among those losses – Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Colorado, North Texas and an AAC tournament semifinal loss to a UCF team that earned a No. 7-seed in the NCAA tournament. They also have a victory over a Delaware team that is in the NCAA field as well.

SMU has two big scoring threats – 6-0 redshirt senior forward Savannah Wilkinson, a London native who transferred in from Florida State, as well as Kayla White, a 5-10 guard from DeSoto, Texas.

Wilkinson is averaging 13.5 points a game, shooting .398 from the field and .775 from the free-throw line. She's also a major threat under the basket as she averages 9.4 rebounds a game and has 23 blocks on the season. White is scoring 13.1 points a night, shooting .390 from the floor and .723 at the stripe with a team-best 73 makes.

Jasmine Smith has other ways to make teams work as she leads SMU with 43 steals, 111 assists and 28 blocks. She's still a solid point producer too, shooting .367 from the floor and .341 from 3-point range on 123 tries as she averages 9.7 points and 4.4 boards.

As a team, SMU is averaging 60.6 points a game, almost perfectly balanced with the 60.9 points allowed on defense. The Mustangs shoot .388 as a whole, including .292 from 3-point range with an average of 3.5 treys. SMU is .669 from the free-throw line, while also averaging 38.7 rebounds.

After the Mustangs won five straight to close out 2021 and open 2022, SMU has lost eight of its last 13 games, including a 61-28 defeat to UCF.

In that contest, the entire roster was held to single-digit scoring as the Mustangs were 12-for-49 from the field, 1-for-11 from three. They were only able to coax four tries at the free-throw line, hitting three. White had a team-best eight points, while Sydney Wiggins scored seven.

SMU was held to three points in the opening quarter, UCF outscoring the Mustangs with 15 and never looked back as SMU had single digits in the third and fourth quarters as well.

The Golden Eagles can relate, running into a similar fate in the Ohio Valley Conference championship against Belmont, a 51-29 contest that led Tech to the WNIT automatic qualifier. While Tech (20-10, 14-4 OVC) has won three of its last five, it's still just the tail-end of an impressive run that has seen the Golden Eagles win 18 of their last 23 games since falling to then-No. 11 Tennessee to end one of the toughest stretches of competition the program had seen.

With almost two weeks since the OVC tournament, the Golden Eagles are rested and ready to make a run for the WNIT title.

Tech is averaging 65.9 points per game, while allowing 61.0. The team is shooting .426 as a whole, including .317 from 3-point range and .703 from the stripe. The Golden Eagles are averaging 36.4 rebounds a game.

Anna Jones leads Tech in scoring and rebounds with 13.3 points per game and 7.3 boards per game. Mackenzie Coleman is averaging 11.1 points and 5.6 boards, while also blocking 38 shots this season. Jada Guinn (9.0 ppg) has 114 assists and 41 steals, while Anna Walker (8.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg) is also a defensive threat with 23 blocks.

The winner of Thursday's game will play the winner of Houston/Louisiana Tech, while the winner of Alabama/Troy and Jacksonville State/Tulane will square off between March 19 and 22.


Photo | Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information

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