By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee State came out on fire, but Tennessee Tech found a way to weather the storm as the Golden Eagles surged back to erase the early deficit and outscored the Lady Tigers in each of the final three quarters to come away with an 83-76 victory on Saturday afternoon in the Hooper Eblen Center.
Tech improved to 11-5, 5-1 in the OVC, while the Lady Tigers fell to 7-10, 2-4 in the conference. With Little Rock's loss to Eastern Illinois, the Golden Eagles move into a tie for second with the Trojans with Tech traveling to Little Rock on Thursday.
Jada Guinn had a nearly perfect game, shooting 8-for-9 from the field and 8-for-9 at the free-throw line to score a career-high 24 points. Maaliya Owens followed up her career night on Thursday with another solid showing with 21 points, including five 3-pointers, while true freshman Reghan Grimes posted a new season-best with 17 points.
Tennessee State surged out to a nine-point lead three times in the first quarter as the Lady Tigers forced five turnovers and the Golden Eagles had a tough time getting early shots to fall. Tech shot 5-for-17 in the first 10 minutes, including 2-for-7 from long-range.
The Lady Tigers, meanwhile, were scorching early on, though they cooled to a still-warm 57.9 percent as the first quarter came to a close, knocking down 11 of their 19 shots. Gia Adams and Erica Haynes-Overton each scored eight points in the first quarter, but foul trouble later slowed down Haynes-Overton and an injury sidelined Adams as they ended up with four and three more points respectively for the remainder of the game.
The second quarter was almost a complete inverse as it was the Golden Eagles shooting exactly 50 percent in the stanza, while TSU cooled down, hitting 4-for-15. The Lady Tigers fared better at the free-throw line, shooting 5-of-7 to Tech's 4-of-8.
Owens scored seven of her points in the period, while Grimes had five to pace the Golden Eagles to 21 points in the quarter, outscoring the Lady Tigers by eight to make it a 38-37 TSU advantage at the half.
Guinn turned up the pressure in the third quarter as she scored nine of Tech's 23 points as she was 4-for-4 from the field and 1-for-1 at the line. After some early lead swaps, the Golden Eagles were able to put together a 6-0 run and take a seven-point 55-48 advantage with 3:16 left in the quarter.
TSU was far from out though – the Lady Tigers hit five straight free throws with two from Lyric Cole, one from Adams and a pair for Ashley Malone before she came through with a turnaround jumper to knot the game at 55.
Tech closed out the quarter retaking the lead as Guinn made a fast-break layup and drew a foul from Cole. Guinn cleared the and-one shot to give the Golden Eagles a 60-57 lead at the end of the third quarter.
Grimes helped put a cap on the game as she scored nine points in the final 10 minutes, shooting 2-for-2 and 5-for-5 at the line. Guinn did her part too, adding her final seven points with one field goal and 5-for-6 at the line.
While Tech had troubles at the free-throw line on the day, it wasn't in the fourth quarter as the Golden Eagles hit the shots in clutch time, going 12-for-15 in the fourth. Tech was 15-for-22 in the entire game.
With Adams sidelined and Haynes-Overton trying to avoid her disqualifying foul, Saniah Parker tried to keep the Lady Tigers in reach, leading TSU with eight points in the final 10 minutes, while Malone had five. Parker and Malone ended up leading the Lady Tigers with 14 points each, while Adams ended with 12 and Haynes-Overton with 11.
After the Golden Eagles extended their lead back out to seven points, TSU clawed back, cutting it to two – 75-73 with 1:37 remaining. A pair of Guinn free-throws put Tech back up by four, but Malone missed the first of a pair, then hit the second to make it a three-point game.
Grimes answered with 57 seconds remaining with a pullup jumper to go back up by five, but Ever Walker drew a foul from Peyton Carter. Walker hit both to make it a one-possession game once more at 79-76.
With 23 ticks left, Walker fouled Grimes, who hit both gimmes to give Tech an 81-76 advantage. Parker missed a 3-point try, forcing another foul to Guinn. The Tech senior swished both, icing the game.
Cole led TSU in rebounds with 10, missing a double-double with eight points.
Grimes had seven boards to lead Tech, while Guinn and Carter each had seven. Grimes also had a season-best six assists as she tried to flirt with a triple-double.
The Golden Eagles, after next week's road trip to Little Rock and Southeast Missouri, will return home to take on SIUE on Jan. 26 for the team's We Back Pat contest and see the return visit from Little Rock on the 28th to close out the January slate.
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