January 30, 2012

Golden Eagle defense, late Cook heroics top Morehead State

Tech puts four-game win streak on the line Wednesday in Eblen Center

MOREHEAD, Ky. – Junior Kellie Cook contributed two of the most critical minutes of her career late in the game Monday night, helping to lift the Tennessee Tech women's basketball team to its fourth consecutive win, a gut-check 57-53 come-from-behind decision at Morehead State.

Cook helped Tech erase an 11-point deficit by scoring eight straight points, including back-to-back 3-pointers, and also blocked a shot and grabbed an important defensive rebound as the Golden Eagles closed the game on a 17-2 run.

The road victory, Tech's second consecutive Ohio Valley Conference win away from home, helped the Golden Eagles stay in the upper ranks of the league standings with a 6-3 record and improve to 10-13 overall. Tech has won four straight and six of the last eight.

Morehead State, which dropped both games in the series to Tech this season, saw its mark slip to 7-13 overall and 4-4 in league play with its third straight loss.

Tech comes home to host SIU Edwardsville Wednesday night, with tipoff at 7 p.m.

The Tech defense held MSU without a basket for a stretch than ran to 16:01, including the final 10:08 of the first half and the first 5:53 after halftime.

Still, despite not yielding a field goal for that long period, the Golden Eagles weren't able to take advantage. When the MSU Eagles finally got their first basket of the second half, broke a 33-33 tie, the fourth time of the night that the teams were knotted up.

In fact, the 3-pointer by Linda Dixon at the 14:07 mark of the second half – Morehead State's first trey of the contest  -- ignited an 18-7 stretch that allowed the home team to build an 11-point margin with 7:20 to play.

The Tech defense rose up again and the 3-pointer by Terrice Robinson that made it 51-40 MSU lead was the last basket allowed by the Golden Eagles for the next 5:28. It allowed the Golden Eagles to slowly trim the difference, starting with a layup by freshman T'Keyah Willams and jumpers by Tacarra Hayes and Jala Harris. Those points made it 51-46, and Hayes added a free throw to pull the Golden Eagles within four.

Williams nabbed a defensive rebound and keyed a break that led to a 3-pointer by Cook from the left wing to get Tech within one point, 51-50. After another defensive rebounds by Williams, Cook knocked down another 3-pointer 28 seconds later, pushing Tech ahead, 53-51.

And, 41 seconds after that, after Cook had blocked a shot, she buried a fadeaway jumper to make it 55-51 with 2:17 remaining.

Courtney Lumpkin's jumper with 1:52 left ended MSU's scoring drought, and made it a two-point game.

Neither team scored down the stretch and with four seconds left,  Kylie Cook blocked Lumpkin's layup attempt. Ashar Harris grabbed the offensive rebounds, her 16th of the night, and drew a foul. However, she missed both charity tries and Rachel Glidden hauled down the rebounds and drew a foul with 2.6 seconds left. Glidden hit both free throws for the final margin.

Tech's stout defense over the final 10 minutes of the first half helped give the Golden Eagles a chance to win the game, after Morehead State had worked its way out to a nine-point lead at 22-13. Tech closed the half on a 15-7 run to pull within one at the break.

Hayes was the top scorer in a balanced offensive night for Tech, netting 16 points on 6-for-11 shooting. She added seven rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots. Glidden finished with 10 points and seven rebounds, while Harris had eight points and six rebounds and Kellie Cook added eight. Brittany Darling managed seven points and six rebounds.

The Golden Eagles had a 46-35 lead in rebounds.

Lumpkin was the game's top scorer with 19 points while Linda Dixon finished wit 15 points. Almesha Jones added nine points, four assists and two steals. Harris, the leading rebounder in the nation, had 16 rebounds, three assists and two steals.