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January 9, 2012

Golden Eagles win second straight, top TSU Tigers 80-71

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Tech owned a big lead in the first half and again during the final minute of the game, but Tennessee State made things interesting throughout most of the second half before the host Golden Eagles prevailed, 80-71, in an Ohio Valley Conference women’s basketball battle in Eblen Center Monday night.

The fast-paced, physical game featured 57 total fouls and 71 combined free throws.

Tech (6-11/2-2 OVC) won back-to-back games for first time this season and stretched its winning streak over the Tigers to four straight games. Tennessee State, attempting to win back-to-back road games, slipped to 6-11 overall and 2-3 in OVC play.

Senior Tacarra Hayes was the top scorer in the game with 27 points to lead Tech, including 13-for-17 at the free throw line. She also had seven rebounds and five assists. Junior Jala Harris added 22 points and senior Brittany Darling finished with 13 points and seven rebounds.  Freshman T’Keyah Williams came off the bench to contribute seven points and six rebounds.

Tayla Foster was the leader for the Tigers, shooting 6-for-9 from the field and 7-for-7 at the line to finish with 20 points and nine rebounds. Avery Jones added 11 points and eight rebounds while Jasmin Shuler notched nine points.

In a five-point game following two free throws by Foster with 1:36 remaining, Molly Heady scored a layup with 1:25 to play to put Tech on top by seven, 73-66. Twenty seconds later, Williams grabbed a crucial rebound on a TSU miss and keyed a fast break that led to a three-point play by Hayes with 1:03 to go to give the Golden Eagles a 10-point lead and all but clinch the win.

Tech hit 40.3 percent overall, going 25-for-62 from the field including 5-for-16 from long range. The Golden Eagles were 25-for-36 at the free throw line for 69.4 percent.

TSU shot 37.1 percent (23-for-62) from the floor, limited by a 1-for-12 performance from outside the arc. The Tigers were 24-for-35 at the line for 68.6 percent.

TSU was whistled for 30 total fouls with four players finishing with four fouls apiece. Tech committed 27 fouls, with both Darling and Kylie Cook earning five infractions.

The Golden Eagles sprinted out to an early double-digit lead, using a 13-0 run to build a 13-2 lead just three minutes into the contest with Brittany Darling scoring seven in the run and Jala Harris capping it with a 3-pointer.

The lead hovered between 10 and 13 points over the next eight minutes before TSU crept to within six. Tech’s lead went back to 10, before the Tigers scored the final five points of the half and pulled to within five at halftime, 41-36.

The first half of play was a whistle-fest, with 33 fouls called and the teams combining to shoot 44 free throws. Six TSU players had at least two fouls and seven Golden Eagles were called for two or more infractions, including post players Molly Heady and Darling with three each.

After Heady scored the first bucket of the second half, Tennessee State stormed back with a 9-0 run including five points from Foster and consecutive layups by Schuler. The run put TSU on top 45-43, the first lead in the game for the Tigers since a 2-0 mark to open the game.

TSU’s largest lead was three points at 47-44, when Hayes laid in back-to-back baskets and Tech was back on top to stay.

The Tigers were still within two at 52-50 when the Golden Eagles eased back to a six-point cushion and they were able to maintain their edge the rest of the way. A layup by Chelsea Hudson with 7:06 to play made it a three-point game and twice in the final five minutes the Tigers were within four.

With 4:05 remaining and TSU trailing by four, Harris knocked down her fourth 3-pointer of the game. Tech was able to run nearly three minutes of the clock, missing four shots but grabbing offensive rebounds to control the ball.

Tech’s next contest is a road test at Murray State Saturday in the nightcap of an OVC doubleheader. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.