EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – It was a milestone moment 52-and-a-half seasons in the making. As the final buzzer sounded at SIUE's First Community Arena on Thursday, the Tennessee Tech women's basketball team not only took its first win of the Ohio Valley Conference campaign with an 85-70 victory over the host Cougars, it gave the Golden Eagles the 1,000th win in program history.
Tech (7-4) became the 21st team in NCAA Division I to reach the millennium mark, joining some pretty elite company.
However, SIUE (1-11) made the Golden Eagles work for the milestone.
The two teams battled back and forth as Ajulu Thatha paced the way, leading all scorers with 11 points on 5-for-5 shooting in the opening 10 minutes. Both teams were shooting over 50 percent from the floor in the first quarter, but Tech went 1-for-6 at the line in that span.
Tech was able to take the second quarter 20-16 as Grimes and Reagan Hurst each had six points. Sofie Lowis, who ended the game with a career-high 22 points, had seven of those in the second before the intermission.
The third quarter, however, is where the Golden Eagles took over as Tech outscored SIUE 27-12, including a 13-0 run. The Cougars were only able to knock down five shots as Lowis led SIUE's quarter with five points. Tech continued to shoot over 50-percent in the game as the Golden Eagles hit 12 of 23 shots and forced six SIUE turnovers.
The run changed the complexion of the game as the Golden Eagles went from a 41-38 halftime lead to a 68-50 advantage at the end of three quarters.
The Cougars tried to climb back into the game, cutting back down to within 13 after the Golden Eagles took a 24-point, 76-52 lead with 7:15 remaining in the game. But all Tech had to do was endure. Lowis scored her final 10 points of the game, but the Golden Eagles employed long possessions to try to run out the clock and escape with the 15-point victory.
Tech finished the game shooting 52.9 percent from the floor, 33.3 percent from long range with five 3-pointers and 8-for-16 at the free throw line, using a 6-for-8 effort in the second half to improve its percentage.
The Golden Eagles finished the game with five players in double-digit scoring, led by Owens and Grimes with 16 points each, while Guinn had 14, Hurst 11 and Peyton Carter 10. Carter also led the team in rebounds with eight caroms, while Hurst led Tech with four assists out of the team's 16.
In addition to Lowis' career-high night, Thatha finished with 20 points on 9-for-11 shooting.
The Golden Eagles return to action on Saturday as they travel to Lindenwood. Tipoff is set for 1 p.m.
Photo | Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information