February 26, 2011

Tech claims OVC championship outright with 63-50 win over Jacksonville State

2011 OVC Tournament women's bracket (PDF)

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Forgive Tennessee Tech for being a little bit selfish, but the Golden Eagles didn't want to share this trophy with anybody.

Tech knocked off Jacksonville State Saturday night, 63-50, in front of an appreciative crowd in Eblen Center to clinch outright the 2011 Ohio Valley Conference regular season championship with a 15-3 league record.

For the Golden Eagles, it was the team's 16th OVC title, coming in coach Sytia Messer's second season at the helm. Now 22-6 overall, the Golden Eagles head to the eight-team OVC Tournament next week in Nashville as the league's No. 1 seed.  

It is Tech's first outright championship since the 2000-2001 season.

Junior guard Tacarra Hayes led the way to the win with 23 points and seven assists, scoring 17 in the first half as Tech took control. She was 9-for-18 from the field and also grabbed four rebounds.

Jordan was the only other Golden Eagle to score in double figures, netting 10 points along with five rebounds and six assists. Molly Heady, another freshman, had nine points and eight rebounds.

The Golden Eagles had a narrow 36-34 edge in rebounds and protected the ball, being charged with just 11 turnovers while forcing 20 by the Gamecocks.

Jacksonville State (9-20/6-12 OVC) was led by Brittany Wiley with 18 points and five rebounds, the lone Gamecock in double figures. Detiny Lane added nine points and six rebounds, while Danielle Beneby had nine points, four rebounds and four assists. Danielle Vaughn contributed six points and led JSU on the glass with six rebounds.

The led for the entire game after Tacarra Hayes scored the first points of the night just 34 seconds into the contest. Tech's lead was trimmed to one point with 14:34 to play in the first half on a pair of free throws by Candice Carmine to make it 8-7.

From there, Hayes hit back-to-back jumpers and Briana Jordan nailed a 3-pointer to make it a 15-9 lead. JSU got to within three, 20-17, with 8:12 to go on a 3-pointer by Brittany Wiley, but the Golden Eagle used a 12- run to open a double-digit edge. Hayes scored five in the run and Kellie Cook banged in a crucial 3-pointer.

Tech was up by eight, 32-24, at halftime.

In the second half, the Gamecocks had crept back from a 10-point deficit to within three at 39-36 with 13 minutes left, before Kellie Cook's jumper and a 3-pointer from Jordan helped Tech recover and build a seven-point edge. A 3-pointer by Rachel Glidden rebuilt the double-digit advantage at 46-36 with 11:30 remaining.

Two minutes later, after holding JSU without any points during the stretch, Cook poured in another trey and Tech was up 49-36.

Four times after that, the Gamecocks got the lead down to eight points and each time Tech had an answer, twice by Heady.  The lead bulged to its largest of the night at 16 points, 63-47, in the game's final minute before Wiley's 3-pointer with 44 seconds left accounted for the final margin. 

The Golden Eagles received a tremendous ovation from the crowd of 2,500 after the game, then came out following the men's contest to accept the championship trophy from OVC Commissioner Beth DeBauche.

After that, they cut down the nets.

Tech heads to Nashville for the OVC Tournament next week in Municipal Arena, with the tourney champ claiming the league's automatic spot in the NCAA Tournament.

As the No. 1 seed, Tech has a bye on the first and second days, and will get its first taste of action Friday at 12 noon in the semifinals against an opponent to be determined in the earlier rounds -- either the fourth (Eastern Illinois), fifth (Austin Peay) or eighth (Murray State) seed.

Tickets for the tournament, both all-session tickets and individual session seats, are on sale at the Athletics Ticket Office in Eblen Center or by calling (931) 372-3940.