Nearly flawless first half keys Tech to OVC Tourney victory

NASHVILLE --- If that wasn't a perfect half of basketball Thursday afternoon, well, it was pretty darn close.

The Tennessee Tech women's basketball team was nearly flawless in the first 20 minutes of its first game of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament, pulled far away from Eastern Kentucky, and coasted to an 81-65 victory. Tech has now won 10 of its last 12 games.

With the win, the Golden Eagles (16-15) advance to a semifinal showdown Friday afternoon with Eastern Illinois. Tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. in the Municipal Auditorium. EKU, which lost three times to Tech this winter, ends the season with a 13-16 mark.

It will be be 26th time in the 31 years since the OVC tournament began in 1982 that the Tech women will play in the semifinals.

By halftime, Tech held a 43-25 lead, jumping on top 5-0 to open the contest and never letting the Colonels catch up. Tech shot 49 percent in the first half, including 4-for-8 from long range, and was 5-for-6 at the free throw line. In addition, the Golden Eagles held EKU to 29 percent shooting, had a two-to-one rebound margin (25-13), and had only seven turnovers.

More impressive, seven different players contributed points in the opening half with five scoring six or more.

In short, the team effort by the Golden Eagles made short work of the battle.

EKU did mount an early threat in the second half, cutting the lead down to 12, but that was the extent of the Colonel comeback. Tech bounced back to regain a 20-point lead and head coach Sytia Messer was able to turn things over to her bench.

The Golden Eagle starters were sitting down and watching for the final 11 minutes of the game, and the reserves were able to keep the lead above 20 points down to the final minute. All 13 players saw action, and 12 put points on the board.

In the end, junior Jala Harris was Tech's leading scorer with 19 points, going 6-for-8 from the field and 6-for-6 at the free throw line. She also had four rebounds and three assists.

Senior Tacarra Hayes also scored in double figures with 14 points, and contributed five assists. Brittany Darling had eight points and seven rebounds and Molly Heady chipped in with eight points and five boards. Rachel Glidden also had a solid game with six points and five rebounds, while Briana Jordan added seven points, three assists and two steals.

Alex Jones led EKU with 14 points and 16 rebounds while Jade Barber added 11 points and 10 boards. Carla Booth also scored in double figures with 10.

Tech shot 44.8 percent for the game overall (30-for-67) and 81 percent at the free throw line (17-for-21). EKU finished with 33.3 percent shooting (21-for-63) from the field and 70.8 percent at the charity line (17-for-24).

The Golden Eagles held a 49-38 advantage on the boards.

Tech faces EIU Friday in a semifinal matchup. The Panthers edged Tech by one point in Eblen Center two weeks ago, and have been idle since the close of the regular season last Saturday. EIU had byes on Wednesday and Thursday, and will be seeing its first action on the Municipal Auditorium floor.