By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The game Monday night may have come down to the wire, but the Tennessee Tech women got the most important thing in the season opener against Ball State – the victory.
The Golden Eagles put their first notch in the win column, topping the Cardinals – currently ranked No. 14 in the CollegeInsider.com Preseason Top 25 – with a 68-63 victory in the Hooper Eblen Center on Monday night.
Ball State (0-1) certainly made it interesting though. After the Golden Eagles used a few runs in the second quarter to build a 19-point lead in the contest, the Cardinals rallied back, outscoring the Golden Eagles 39-29 in the second half and 16-9 in the fourth quarter. BSU even cut the deficit down to one point with 1:44 remaining in the contest.
Still Tech held on. Neither team was able to hit a field goal down the final stretch and Ball State had to send the Golden Eagles to the one place they didn't want to send them to – the free-throw line. Reagan Hurst knocked down one of two late tries with 14 seconds left to make it a three-point game, then Reghan Grimes stole the ball away from Thelma Dis Agustsdottir with seven seconds left and was fouled. Grimes knocked down both free throws to ice the game.
The charity stripe was a good place to be if you were a Golden Eagle on Monday as Tech was 22-for-25 – two of the three misses coming in the final 91 seconds of the contest. Jordan Brock drew 12 fouls out of 32 whistled against the Cardinals and was 6-for-6 from the line, while Hurst was 7-for-9.
Brock and Hurst also led all scorers in the contest as they had 16 points each.
It was a solid showing for the Tech freshmen in the contest. In addition to Hurst's night with three steals and two rebounds, Grimes had eight points, three boards, three steals and a blocked shot, while Cayla Cowart had seven points, four caroms, three assists and a steal.
On defense, the Golden Eagles were able to slow down the Cardinals, forcing them into 24 turnovers in the contest and converting those miscues into 16 points. Tech held Ball State to 10 points in the second quarter as the Cardinals were 3-for-10 from the field, 0-for-3 from long range and 4-for-8 from the stripe.
Alli Becki, the Cardinals' representative on the Preseason All-Mid-American Conference team, was held to just two points and four rebounds in the contest. That said, Ball State did get double-digit production from four players as Anna Clephane had 12 points – 7-for-8 at the free-throw line – while Sydney Shafer and Alex Richard scored 11 and Annie Rauch had 10.
Between the two squads, 58 fouls were called, creating lineup issues on both sides. Sydney Bolden fouled out and three others were on the cusp of getting disqualified, while Anna Walker and Jada Guinn saw their nights come to an end early on fifth fouls.
The difference, however, was that Ball State had difficulty getting those free shots to fall as the Cardinals went 23-for-33 at the stripe. BSU was also 2-for-17 from 3-point range.
The Cardinals made a surge in the second half, propelled by a strong effort on the glass. For the game, Ball State won the rebound battle 48 to 28, including 27 to 11 in the second half and 14 to 5 in the fourth quarter. With 31 offensive rebounds and 11 second-chance points, the Cardinals were able to outscore Tech 16-9 in the final quarter, going on a 13-0 run stretching all the way to the 2:21 mark in the final period.
With the victory in hand, the Golden Eagles get ready to hit the road for the first time on Thursday as they travel to Cincinnati. Tipoff on Thursday is slated for a 4 p.m. start.
Tech returns home next Monday night for a single-game affair against Samford starting at 6 p.m.
Season tickets for Tennessee Tech basketball are on sale now. Call (931) 372-3940, visit the Hooper Eblen Center ticket office or visit TTUsports.com to order.
Photo | Jim Dillon