January 8, 2011

Slow start, better finish as Tech reclaims first place in OVC race

Freshmen Jordan, Heady lead balanced charge in comeback victory;
Golden Eagles in three-way tie for first place in OVC standings


RICHMOND, Ky. – Slow starts. Tennessee Tech coach Sytia Messer has lamented the way the Golden Eagles have begun several games this season, insisting her team needs to do a better job during the first few minutes.

The message didn't get through Saturday night as Tech watched Eastern Kentucky roll out to a 17-3 lead in the first five minutes.

Still, the Golden Eagles scrapped all the way back to tie the game at 24-all eight minutes later and went on to earn a 78-69 Ohio Valley Conference road victory over the Colonels in McBrayer Arena. The win, coupled with Morehead State's 81-80 overtime loss to Jacksonville State, pushed Tech into a three-way tie for first place in the OVC standings.

With freshmen Briana Jordan and Molly Heady leading a balanced charge, Tech did it the hard way. After overcoming the slow start to gain a halftime lead, they eventually hung on down the stretch with free throws. Tech went 9-for-12 at the line in the final minute to ice the win.

Tech improved to 10-4 overall and 4-1 within the Ohio Valley Conference, putting the Golden Eagles in a three-way tie for first with UT Martin and Eastern Illinois, with Morehead State a half-game back. EKU slipped to 4-10 overall and 1-5 in league play.

Jordan had one of her best floor games of the season and provided some crucial offensive punch. She finished with 15 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals. Heady added 11 points and eight rebounds. Their contributions off the bench helped Tech's bench outscore EKU's bench, 32-16.

Junior Kellie Cook also scored 15, including 6-for-6 at the free throw line. Tacarra Hayes (photo below left), who sat much of the first half because of early foul trouble, wound up with 12 points, six rebounds and five assists. Rachel Glidden was Tech's fifth double-digit scorer, knocking down 3-for-7 from long range on the way to 11 points. Kylie Cook added six points and seven boards as Tech claimed a 42-32 edge in rebounds.

EKU had four players in double figures. Alex Jones topped EKU with 20 points and 10 rebounds for her 14th double-double of the year. Marie Carpenter added 16 points off the bench, while Reese Bass scored 15 and Brittany Coles had 13.

 Heady's basket with 1:25 to play gave Tech a 69-62 lead, and proved to be the fiinal basket of the game for the Golden Eagles. Tech went to the free throw line for the first time in the second half with 59 seconds remaining with Kellie Cook hitting both shots. Heady and Hayes followed with two free throws each to deflect EKU's comeback effort.. 

Hayes hit the opening basket for a 2-0 Tech lead, but EKU scored 17 of the next 18 points, including 3-pointers by Bass and Coles. Heady had a tip-in, followed by baskets from Hayes and Kellie Cook for a 6-0 Tech run, and the Golden Eagles were on their way back.

Jordan's putback with 7:34 to play tied the game at 24-24, and the score was knotted five more times in the opening half. A jumper by Carpenter with 1:22 to play tied the game for the sixth time, 38-38, before Keisha Moore's (photo above right) only basket of the night put Tech ahead to stay. The Golden Eagles led 42-38 at halftime.

Tech's largest lead of the night came on a 3-pointer by Glidden with 12:18 to play, making it a 15-point game at 57-42. An 8-0 run by the Colonels cut the lead down to six, 62-56, with 6:09 remaining, but that was as close as the score would get.

EKU pulled to within seven points four times in the final 1:10.

Tech heads back to Cookeville to turn its attention toward a couple of important OVC home games in Eblen Center next week. The Golden Eagles will host UT Martin Thursday and Murray State Saturday, with start times at 5:30 p.m. for both games.

Tickets are available through the Athletic Ticket Office in Eblen Center (931-372-3940) or on the web at TTUsports.com.

Thursday's game is Jackson County Night, with an offer of $1 tickets for all residents of Jackson County. On Saturday, Tech hosts Putnam County Night, with a similar $1 offer for Putnam County residents. Saturday will also be Basketball Alumni Night at Eblen Center.

Thanks to Craig Delk of Cookeville Herald-Citizen for today's photos