Messer, Golden Eagles face first OVC test at JSU
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- First-year head coach Sytia Messer and her young Golden Eagle squad have faced some tough challenges in the early going of 2009-2010, and Saturday they take on another when they visit Jacksonville State for their first Ohio Valley Conference game.
Tech (2-4) enters the contest coming off of a 73-65 victory over Lipscomb on Monday in the Golden Eagles' home opener.
History is on Tech's side as the Golden Eagles have won seven of their last 10 OVC openers. TTU also holds at 9-3 all-time mark against Jacksonville State, and the Golden Eagles have been victorious in each of their past four trips to the Pete Mathews Coliseum, including last year's 78-46 win to close out the regular season.
However, while the Gamecocks roster has remained relatively unchanged from last year's match-up, Tech will enter Saturday's game with only four players who have ever made the trip to Jacksonville, Ala.
JSU, picked to finish fifth in the OVC preseason poll, returns all five starters from a season ago, but only two of those players - Brittany Wiley and Danielle Beneby - have started more than two games so far this season. Newcomer Zenobia Pitts leads Jacksonville State (1-6) in scoring at 9.6 points per game, while seven Gamecocks are averaging at least 5.0 points per game.
The Golden Eagles hope that the momentum from their late rally against Lipscomb carries over to Saturday. Leading the way into that contest will be sophomore Tacarra Hayes who is third in the conference in scoring at 16.0 points per game. She also leads the team with 2.3 assists per game and is tied with fellow sophomore Simone Rutledge for the team lead in rebounding at 5.2 boards per game.
Rutledge is coming off a career night when she posted a double-double against Lipscomb. The Decatur, Ga., native finished the game with 14 points and 14 rebounds in 35 minutes of action as she made her third start of the season.
Both teams are coming off of victories as Jacksonville State narrowly grabbed its first win of the season on Wednesday against Alabama A&M, 74-71.
Live stats for Saturday's contest will be available through Jacksonville State's Web site, jsugamecocksports.com, while Web streaming of the game can be seen through ovcsports.tv.
Following Saturday's game, Tech will return home to play Southern Illinois on Saturday, December 12. Single game and season tickets are available through the Golden Eagle ticket office by calling 372-3940 or visiting TTUsports.com.