Hopper earns OVC Freshman of the Week honors

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. - Tiara Hopper had a career night Saturday against Belmont and was recognized as the Ohio Valley Conference Freshman of the Week for her efforts, marking the first time this season she has earned the distinction.

Hopper came up huge defensively down the stretch of the close, 72-69, win against Belmont, blocking a lay-up that would have given the Bruins a three-point lead with less than two minutes remaining and stealing an in-bounds pass with 32 seconds to go in the game and a two-point Golden Eagle lead.

"I was impressed with Tiara's performance, especially how she played defensively," said Sytia Messer, Golden Eagle head coach. "She made a key stop with seconds left in the game, and we were also able to go to her offensively, so I was very pleased."

The Louisville, Ky., native also pulled down three rebounds in the final two minutes of the game to record her second double-double of the season with a career-high14 points and 10 boards. Hopper also added two assists, one block and one steal in a career-high 36 minutes of action off the bench.

"One of the things we've encouraged her to do is use her quickness to her advantage," Messer said of the 5-foot-11 forward. "She's buying into it and playing with a lot of heart to make up for her lack of inches. We're very proud of her."

Hopper's first double-double of the season came in the team's season opener against Alabama when she tallied 12 points and 10 rebounds.

For the season, Hopper is averaging 6.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per game in 21.1 minutes of playing time for the Golden Eagles.

"She has had some big games for us, and we've challenged her to be more consistent," Messer said. "We're challenging her to play at a high level consistently so that she's not only trying to be the OVC Freshman of the Week but OVC Freshman of the Year."

Hopper joins teammate Tacarra Hayes as the two Golden Eagles who have received OVC weekly honors so far this season. Hayes was named the OVC Player of the Week for the first week of the season when she led the team in scoring, rebounding and assists at the Islander Tip-Off Tournament.

The Golden Eagles return to action on Wednesday when they travel to St. Louis to take on the Billikens at 2 p.m.