Bench, balance lead Tech to OVC road win at Murray State

Photo: Krystal Stirrup and the Tech bench helped claim ninth straight win

MURRAY, Ky. -- Strong play off the bench and balanced scoring helped the Tennessee Tech women's basketball team capture its 10th consecutive win, a 70-60 Ohio Valley Conference road battle at Murray State.

Tech never trailed in the contest, jumping out to a large early lead with 53 percent shooting in the first half. Junior Tacarra Hayes led four players in double figures with 24 points and also grabbed nine rebounds to spearhed the victory.

Brittany Darling added 11 points and six rebounds, while Molly Heady and Krystal Stirrup came off the bench to reach double digits. Heady scored 11 and grabbed seven boards, while Stirrup netted 10 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Stirrup, whose performance also featured four assists and three steals, was a perfect 4-for-4 from the field and hit both of her free throw tries.

A pair of freshmen also chipped in with strong games off the bench. Briana Jordan had six points and five rebounds while Keisha Moore scored eight points.

The showing by Tech's bench was crucial as coach Sytia Messer's squad faced early adversity. Starters Kellie Cook and Rachel Glidden were both out of action early due to injuries, while Hayes and Kylie Cook both fought foul trouble.

The Golden Eagles (19-4/13-1 OVC), ranked 17th in the latest mid-major poll announced by CollegeInsider.com, held onto first place in the OVC with a showdown looming Saturday at second-place UT Martin.

Murray State (6-18/2-11 OVC) was led by Mariah Robinson with 24 points and six rebounds, while Rachael Isom had 19 points, four assists and trhee steals. Jessica Winfrey added eight points and a game-best 12 rebounds for the Racers.

Tech took a 3-0 lead before Mallory SChwab hit a 3-pointer to knot the score at 3-3. From there, Tech went on top on a layup by Darling and the Golden Eagles held onto the lead the remaining 38 minutes.

The difference reached double figures for the first time at 24-14 on a layup by Hayes with 10:06 to play in the half. The largest margin was a 21-point bulge, 38-17, when Stirrup's two free throws ended a 7-0 run.

Tech was up by 17 points, 40-23, at halftime.

Tech's shooting effort cooled to 33 percent in the second, including 0-for-6 from 3-point range, and Murray State crept back into the contest. The Racers chipped away at the lead to pull within nine, 50-41, on a three-point play by Isom with 13:04 remaining.

But that was it. Darling scored four straight in a 6-0 Tech run and the lead went back to 15 in the next two minutes.

The Racers were able to clip it down to nine three mores times but never got closer as the Golden Eagles answered every time. The last time came with 4:49 to play after Robinson's layup made it 53-62.  

Stirrup hit a driving layup and the lead stayed in double digits until the final buzzer.