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February 12, 2011

Home-standing Skyhawk women trip Tech, tighten up OVC race

Photo: Briana Jordan scored 17 in her first career start (photo by Tony Marable)

MARTIN, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech women's basketball team has enjoyed plenty of success on the road this season, including seven wins on enemy floors in Ohio Valley Conference play.

Saturday afternoon, however, coach Sytia Messer's team didn't have an answer for the homecourt edge by UT Martin as the host Skyhawks ended Tech's 10-game winning streak with an 83-56 victory in the Elam Center.

"I'm hoping we can bounce back from this the same way we did when we played at Morehead," Messer said. "We want to go home and protect our home court. We're going to really need our crowd when we get home. We need our fans to come out to Eblen Center and be our sixth man for the next three games. 

"We got a little complacent today," Messer said. "Give a lot of credit to the Martin basketball team and their coaches. We didn't do things we wanted to do. We didn't have toughness or consistency. We didn't protect the ball. We didn't get to the free throw line. Now we need to go home and learn from this loss."

UT Martin took advantage of its familiarity with its cavernous arena to shoot 42 percent, including 12-for-28 3-pointers for 42.9 percent accuracy from beyond the arc. The home team also enjoyed a huge advantage at the free throw line, outscoring Tech 23-4 at the charity stripe. The Skyhawks were 23-for-28 for 82 percent while Tech was 4-for-9 for 44 percent.

The result means the Skyhawks (16-9/11-3 OVC) have snuck to within one game in the loss column of the league-leading Golden Eagles in the OVC standings. Tech (13-2 OVC/19-5 overall) have three conference games remaining, all at home in Eblen Center.

Tech hosts Tennessee State on Thursday at 7 p.m., and will entertain Austin Peay Saturday at 5:30 p.m. Tech's final OVC game is Saturday, Feb. 26, against Jacksonville State.

UT Martin has four league games left, with two on the road (EIU and SEMO) before wrapping up with a pair at home (EKU and Morehead State).  The Skyhawk women are now 8-0 at home this season and 8-9 on the road.

Morehead State, meanwhile, is two games behind the Golden Eagles with a 11-4 OVC record. The Eagles have three games remaining, all on the road including the season finale at UTM.

Freshman Briana Jordan, making the first start of her career in place of injured Kellie Cook, proved to be the top scorer for the Golden Eagles with 17 points. Brittany Darling notched a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Kylie Cook added eight points and seven rebounds.

Tech shot 37.7 percent from the field (23-for-61), including 27.3 percent (6-for-22) from long distance. The Golden Eagle owned a 45-35 advantage in rebounds, but had 21 turnovers compared with just seven by the Skyhawks.

Alecia Weatherly led four UTM players in doubles, netting 23 along with seven rebounds. She was 6-for-9 from outside the arc and 5-for-6 at the free throw line.

Jasmine Newsome added 18 points, going 10-for-12 at the charity line. Heather Butler had 17 points and Beth Hawn scored 10.

Tech jumped out to a 9-0 lead, but the Skyhawks came back with a 10-0 run and took their first lead. It was a tight first half, with UT Martin heading to the break with a 48-36 lead.

Tech cut the difference to six early in the second half, but a decisive 14-2 run by the Skyhawks was keyed by sharp defensive play and several 3-pointers.

To order tickets for Thursday's game against TSU, please contact the Athletics Ticket Office in Eblen Center at (931) 372-3940.