Golden Eagle women, Gamecocks looking to start OVC season on winning note

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- Two teams yearning to stake a claim in the win column will clash in the opening game Saturday night when the Tech women host Jacksonville State in their Ohio Valley Conference opener. The Golden Eagles are 1-6 following a loss at Georgia Wednesday night, while JSU is off to a similar 1-6 start following a win over West Georgia on Tuesday.

The victory Tuesday snapped a 10-game losing streak by the Gamecock women.

The two squads split their games last year, each winning on the road, so the Golden Eagles are hoping to reclaim Eblen Center's homecourt advantage.

Jacksonville State is led in scoring and rebounding by Jolie Efezokhae, a 6-1 junior from Buford, Ga., who earned a spot on the OVC All-Newcomer team in 2006-07. She is averaging 13.8 points and seven rebounds per contest while shooting a solid .516 from the field. Averaging just over 30 minutes per game while starting all seven games, she also tops the Gamecocks in steals with 16.

Also averaging in double figures, both Zenobia Pitts and Charlease Williams are putting up 10.2 points per game. Pitts, a 5-8 sophomore from Birmingham, is doing it from outside with a team-high 11 3-pointers. Williams, a 5-10 sophomore forward from Ft. Lauderdale, has done it in the paint and at the free throw line. She ranks second on the team behind Efezokhae in free throws attempted.

As a team, JSU has relied on defense, limiting foes to 39 percent shooting overall and 66 points per game. The Gamecocks are shooting 34.7 percent and averaging 54.3 points, and have been topped on the boards by an average of seven per game.

Head coach Becky Geyer is in her third season at the helm in Jacksonville, after 13 dominating seasons at San Antonio's Trinity University. She won 229 games and one national championship at Trinity, then spent one year as an assistant coach at the University of Central Florida before taking over the Gamecock program.

Amy Brown is also in her third season in charge of the Golden Eagle program, which has shown tremendous balance in its offense this year. Tech is led in scoring by senior Blair Bowens, averaging 11.3 points per game, while six other players re chipping between five and 10 points per game.

Senior Allison Price is next with 9.8 points and leads the team in assists. Freshman Krystal Stirrup is third in scoring with 97 ppg, and is second on the team in rebounds with 5.5 per game. Meagan Lyons is averaging 9.2 points and leads the team in steals. Jasmine White averages 8.3 points and leads Tech in rebounds with 7.2 per game.

Tech owns a 7-3 lead in the all-time series with Jacksonville State, winning five in a row before dropping a four-point contest in Eblen Center last winter, 69-65. In that game, Blair Bowens led Tech with 19 points while Meagan Lyons notched a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Marissa Hensley also reached double figures with 11. Alison Price had nine points, four assists and five steals as the Golden Eagles had 13 steals in the game.

Efezokhae finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds for a double-double, scoring 13 of her points in the first half. Cierra Duhart had 11 points and nine rebounds, Stuart added 13 points and six boards, and Danielle Beneby contributed 11 points and eight rebounds.

In the first meeting, Bowens had a career performance with 22 points, including two clutch free throws with 13.9 seconds remaining, to bounce the Golden Eagles to a 71-68 victory. Kristina Tyler added 12 points.

Duhart finished with 20 points and nine rebounds for JSU, while Efezokhae added 10 points, eight rebounds and four blocked shots.