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Golden Eagles fight to the finish, drop first of the season

All the fight Tech can muster not enough to overcome 27-0 run

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – For the first 10 minutes Wednesday night, things were going smoothly for Tennessee Tech.

Then came a 27-0 run by Middle Tennessee State and the Blue Raiders surged on top and stayed there for a 71-58 non-conference victory over the Golden Eagles in Eblen Center, handing Tech its first loss of the season.

The Golden Eagles (4-1) put up a fight to the finish in a game many believed was already decided by halftime. Instead, Tech scratched its way back to within seven points twice late in the contest before yielding as Middle Tennessee improved to 5-1.

Tacarra Hayes led the comeback, finishing with 19 points and eight rebounds, the only Golden Eagle to score in double figures. Rachel Glidden scored eight, Candace Parson added seven points and six rebounds, and Tiara Hopper netted six with four boards. Tech was 0-for-12 from long distance.

MTSU had four players in double figures, led by Keke Stewart with 22 points and six rebounds. Ebony Rowe had 15 points and nine rebounds, Tina Stewart 11 points and Kortni Jones 10 points along with five steals. MTSU held a slim 40-36 edge in rebounds.

Tech owned an 18-13 lead midway through the opening half, but a perfect storm of problems rose up to swamp the Golden Eagles over the next eight minutes.

During that ill-fated span, the Golden Eagles missed their next 10 shots and suffered seven turnovers, and MTSU made six straight shots and 10 of its next 14 to take a 40-18 lead.

The Golden Eagles, however, didn't go down without a fight in the 73rd edition of this long-standing rivalry. Tech outscored the visitors 8-2 to close the half trailing 42-26.

Tech continued to cut into the difference to open the second half, slicing the Blue Raider margin down to nine points, 53-44, with an 8-0 run. Tech got strong play inside with baskets by Parson, Tiara Hopper and Hayes, before Molly Heady's layup found the net to cap the run.

The Blue Raiders got perhaps their biggest basket of the night when Stewart peeked at the shot clock, saw it down to one second, and launched a 3-pointer that found the range and gave MTSU a 12-point cushion.

The lead stayed in double figures for the next four minutes before Hayes hit two free throws and Glidden sunk three from the charity line to make it a sevn-point game, 60-53, with 6:29 remaining.

But that was as close as Tech could manage and the Blue Raiders recovered in the final two minutes to regain their double-figure edge to the buzzer.

The Golden Eagles hit the road this weekend to open the Ohio Valley Conference schedule, playing at Jacksonville State Saturday at 5:15 p.m. It's the first of a three-game road stretch that includes games at Kentucky (Dec. 7) and Drake (Dec. 11) before breaking for final exams.