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December 19, 2011

Better late than never; Late surge lifts Tech to 68-64 win

MONROE, La. -- Somebody flipped a switch, it seems.

The Tennessee Tech women's basketball team wasn't playing one of its better games Monday night, slipping behind by 16 points well into the second half at Louisiana-Monroe. The Golden Eagles were missing shots, missing free throws and losing turnovers.

Then suddenly, the script changed, mostly by senior guard Tacarra Hayes. The Ohio Valley Conference preseason Player of the Year, Hayes went 8-for-9 from the field in the second half and 8-for-9 at the free throw line, igniting a comeback that lifted the Golden Eagles to a 68-64 victory over the Warhawks.

Tech outscored ULM 29-13 over the final 10:46 to pull out the victory, finally taking the lead with just 2:08 remaining. Hayes scored 17 of the final 29 points on her way to finishing with 29 points, six rebounds, three assists, two steals and a blocked shot.

Jala Harris, playing her first game for the Golden Eagles after sitting out a year following her transfer from UAB, scored six of her 12 points during that stretch, including a layup with 38 seconds to play after ULM had pulled to within two points.

Tech had to fight through foul trouble, shooting woes and 19 turnovers to earn its second straight win over a Sun Belt Conference opponent. Now 4-7 overall, Tech has won two of its last three as it heads 30 miles west for its next contest, a 2 p.m. battle at Louisiana Tech Wednesday afternoon.

ULM, which took a five-point halftime lead up to a 16-point margin by shooting 71.4 percent in the first seven minutes of the second half, saw its record drop to 1-11.

Tech got strong play in the paint despite heavy foul woes. Molly Heady finishing with nine points, nine rebounds, two steals and four fouls. Brittany Darling had four points, eight rebounds and four fouls. Kylie Cook fouled out with three points, two rebounds and two steals. Tech held a 37-30 advantage in rebounds.

ULM was led in scoring by Larrie Williams with 18 points, while Alexar Tugler added 16 points and five rebounds, hitting 6-for-10 from the field. Marion Zollicoffer finished with eight points and nine rebounds while Elexar Tugler scored seven.

Neither team could score to open the game, with a 1-1 tie after nearly four minutes of play. The score was tied eight times in the first half and the lead changed hands 11 times before ULM grabbed a late advantage. The Warhawks broke a 26-26 tie with a 7-2 run to close the frame with a 33-28 lead.

Tech shot 33.3 percent from the floor in the opening half (10-for-30) and was just 4-for-11 at the free throw line at the break (36.4 percent).

The Golden Eagles missed their first four shots of the second half and had six turnovers as the Warhawks strung together a 10-1 run and opened a 43-29 lead. Another turnover and three more missed shots and the lead was up to 16 points, 47-31, with 13:53 to play.

That's when something turned for the visitors.

Hayes scored six straight, Darling hit a layup, and Hayes added two more baskets and a free throw and the difference was cut to seven. Heady's layup made it a five-point game with 9:39 remaining. Tech cut the lead down to one a couple of times, and got the lead at 60-59, on a jumper by Hayes with 3:11 remaining.

ULM used two free throws with 2:39 to play to reclaim the edge, 61-60, but a Hayes jumper with 2:08 left lifted Tech to a 62-61 lead. Tech forced a turnover and Hayes hit two free throws for a trhee-point margin. After Zolicoffer made one free throw to make it 64-62, Harris burst to the rim from the right wing with 38 ticks left to build the margin back to four.

Kylie Cook stole the ball in the paint at the other end, leading to a layup by Hayes and a 68-62 lead with 24 seconds to play. Williams made two free tosses with 11 seconds and the Golden Eagles ran around with the ball until the horn sounded.