Late surge makes it close, but Tech women end season at EIU, 71-65

CHARLESTON, Ill. – Tennessee Tech used a late-season surge to propel itself into the Ohio Valley Conference women’s basketball tournament.

On Tuesday night, the Golden Eagles nearly used the same strategy. A late-game surge nearly pushed coach Amy Brown’s team into the semi-finals.

Instead, No. 2 seed Eastern Illinois dodged a purple-and-gold bullet to survive with a 71-65 victory over the No. 7 seed Golden Eagles in Lantz Arena.

“We fought,” Brown said. “These kids gave it all they could tonight, and I’m very proud of our effort. I can’t say enough about our seniors. They were warriors.”

Down by as many as 16 points in the game, trailing by 14 in the second half and facing dire foul problems, the Golden Eagles ignored the odds and waged a comeback with full-court pressure that forced EIU into 20 turnovers and pulled Tech to within a single point.

Three players scored in double digits for the Golden Eagles, led by senior Meagan Lyons with 17 points along with a team-best seven assists and four rebounds and two steals. Senior Blair Bowens added 15 points with a team-best six rebounds, four assists and three steals. Sophomore Jasmine White scored 12 and grabbed four rebounds.

Rachel Galligan scored 25 points to top EIU, hitting 7-for-8 from the field and 11-of-13 at the free throw line. Megan Edwards was the only other Panther in double digits with 11 points along with a team-high six rebounds.

The Panthers got nine points from Lindsey Kluempers and Ellen Canale, and eight from Maggie Kloak. Canale’s six assists topped EIU..

EIU led the entire first half, and took a 41-29 margin into halftime.

“We came out kind of sloppy in the first half, and we just had to come out and play hard and do everything we could in the second half,” Lyons said.

The Golden Eagles made it a three-point game with less than five minutes remaining, and pulled to within one point, 61-60, with 4:30 remaining, on a basket by Tacarra Hayes. The Panthers scored the next five points, including a long 3-pointer by Lindsey Kluempers with 2:37 remaining, for a 66-60 lead.

“We felt we needed to full-court press the whole game, and I thought late in the game the pressure hurt them,” Brown said.

With the hosts on top by six, 68-62, a technical foul went against EIU’s Ellen Canale for protesting a foul called against her. Bowens made both free throws and Meagan Lyons another one to pull the Golden Eagles to within three points, 68-65, with just under a minute to play. Tech forced another turnover with 42 seconds left, but a traveling call with 31 seconds left took away that chance.

Kluempers made both free throws with 27 seconds left for a five-point difference, and Tech was called for an offensive foul, the 23rd foul of the game against the Golden Eagles. A Galligan free throw accounted for the final margin.

The Golden Eagles shot 44.8 percent (26-for-58) from the field, including 5-for-16 from long range. Tech was 8-for-15 at the free throw line and grabbed 28 rebounds.

EIU shot 56.5 percent from the field, hitting 26-for-46, including 5-for-11 from beyond the arc. The Panthers were 13-for-18 at the charity stripe.

Tech ends the 2008-09 season with a 9-21 overall record. EIU improved to 23-8 and advances to the OVC tourney semifinals in Nashville on Friday.