Tech outlasts Belmont 61-56 in Sunday matinee

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Sophomore Kellie Cook grabbed two rebounds in the final minute of a tie game, drew the fouls and poured through five consecutive free throws to provide the winning margin as Tennessee Tech outlasted Belmont Sunday afternoon, 61-56.

Tech's second straight road win allowed coach Sytia Messer's team to remain the only unbeaten team in the Ohio Valley Conference with a 3-0 for the first time since 2004. Belmont slipped to 1-3.

"I'm proud of Kellie for having 12 rebounds," Messer said. "When we played Lipscomb she had only one rebound and our staff challenged her to imporove her rebounding and she stepped up."

Kellie Cook snapped down 12 rebounds and scored eight points in the contest, which was close throughout. Her effort allowed Tech to own a 43-31 advantage on the boards, one of the key factors in helping the Golden Eagles overcome 20 turnovers.

Freshman point guard Briana Jordan led Tech with 17 points and added eight rebounds. Tacarra Hayes and Brittany Darling also tallied double digits. Hayes had 11 points, six rebounds, two assists and three steals. Darling finished with 10 points and three rebounds.

"Briana carried us in the first half," Messer said. "She did a good job running the offense and made good decisions.

I'm proud that our kids are 3-0," Messer continued. "We won two road games all last year, and we've matched that already this year. We have to get back to the drawing board and keep getting better."

Haley Nelson, an all-conference post player who had missed Belmont's first three games due to an eye injury, came off the bench to spark the Bruins, scoring a game-best 18 points and pulling down nine rebounds. She was the only Belmont player to net double figures. Cacy Burtnet scored nine.

The Golden Eagles led early behind some solid shooting, but couldn't shake the Bruins. Jordan sparked Tech with 10 points in the first half while junior Rachel Glidden his a pair of 3-pointers for six points. Darling had six points and three rebounds early on, but was whistled for three fouls. 

Nelson, came off the Bruin bench for the first time this season after a preseason eye injury, and rallied her team to tie the contest late in the half. She scored 14 points on 7-for-10 shooting in 17 minutes of action.

When Tech went cold, the Bruins took advantage to sneak into a two-point lead at halftime, 31-29. Tech didn't score a field goal over the final eight minutes of the half.

The Golden Eagles also hurt their first half effort with 10 turnovers.

The beginning of the second half saw the contest remain close with neither team leading by more than three points. with 7:33 left in the game Tech took a 49-48 lead behind of pair of free throws from Hayes and would not trail the rest of the way.

Tech got nine of its final 12 points at the line as it finished out the day shooting 24-of-31 from the charity stripe (.774) en route to a 61-56 victory to improve to 3-0.

The Golden Eagles take a break from action for Thanksgiving, but return to the floor Saturday evening in Eblen Center when they host Tennessee Wesleyan in a 6 p.m. contest.