Tech's senior pair trumps Evansville Purple Aces, 75-71

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. - Senior guard Blair Bowens scored a career-high 27 points and senior guard Meagan Lyons added a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles to a 75-71 non-conference victory over Missouri Valley Conference foe Evansville Thursday night in Eblen Center.

Tech (3-6) has won back-to-back games as it heads to Southern Illinois for a 2 p.m. contest Sunday in Carbondale. The Purple Aces (6-4) came into the game following a five-point win Sunday over defending OVC champ Murray State.

"Meagan and Blair, both played a great game," said TTU coach Amy Brown. "You could see it in Blair's eyes that it was ?go' time. Evansville and Drake are similar teams. We played smart tonight and cut our turnovers down. We changed our defense a little bit, and I think that's going to help us in the future.

"We also did a good job rebounding, and I knew if we rebounded well we could run. We held on and played hard, and we hit fouls shots down the stretch," Brown said.

The Golden Eagles held a halftime lead and built it to as many as 11 a couple of times in the second half, before Evansville rallied over the final four minutes to tie game at 69-69 with 1:36 to play on a layup by Amy Gallagher.

With the shot clock ticking down, Lyons nailed a 3-pointer from the right wing with 59 seconds left and Tech made enough free throws down the stretch to hold on for the victory.

Bowens was 10-for-17 from the field, including 4-of-6 from outside the arc, for her 27-point effort. She also had five rebounds, three assists and two steals. Coming on the heels of her 24-point effort 12 days ago against Jacksonville State, it gave Bowens back-to-back 20-point games.

That's a rare feat for a Golden Eagle guard, happening only three times in this millennium. One of those came last year by Bowens, and the only other time in nine years occurred in the 2000-01 season by Allison Clark.

"We played hard from beginning to end," said Bowens. "We fought hard the whole game. They're a tough team with really good size. Hopefully this win will help us for the rest of the season."

Lyons finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds, along with three assists and three steals. She was 7-for-8 at the free throw line. Sophomore Jasmine White also reached double figures in scoring with 10 points, and narrowly missed a double-double, grabbing nine rebounds.

Evansville had three players in double digits, topped by Gallagher with 19 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals. Ashley Austin and Robyn Jennings each finished with 14 points and eight rebounds. Austin also had five assists.

Tech had a narrow 46-44 edge in rebounds. Tech shot 48 percent in the second half, finishing the game with a 40.4 percent mark. Evansville slipped from 40 percent in the first half to 28 percent in the second for a game mark of 33 percent.

The lead wormed its way from one side of the scoreboard to the other throughout the first half, changing benches 11 times in addition to five ties.

Tech's biggest lead of the half was five points, which the Golden Eagles held a couple of times, both coming on 3-pointers by Bowens. Evansville held a four-point lead for its largest advantage at 8-4 just two minutes into the contest.

Tech erased that lead with a 9-0 run, the first six coming at the free throw line as the Golden Eagles were 9-for-11 from the charity stripe in the first half.

Tech led by four at the half, despite shooting just 35 percent (12-for-34) during the first 20 minutes. Bowens kept Tech in the game with 15 points on 6-for-9 shooting, including 3-for-4 from long range.

Vivian Nwosu canned back-to-back layups in the first four minutes to ignite a 10-3 Tech run and push Tech on top, 46-35. The Aces trimmed the lead down to four and a three-point play by Shannon Novosel, but Tech rebuilt it's edge to 11, 59-48, with 10:22 to play. The Golden Eagles were 8-for-12 from the field in the first 10 minutes.

The difference was cut to two points four times before Gallagher finally tied things at 69, setting the stage for Lyons' big shot.

The Golden Eagles will face another Missouri Valley Conference foe Sunday afternoon with a 2 p.m. contest at Southern Illinois. The game can be heard on the Golden Eagle Sports Network, with Roger Ealey calling the action beginning with the pregame show at 1:45 p.m. The broadcast will also be available on Free Teamline via the telephone or the Internet.