By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Yaktavia "Shug" Hickson might have lost her shoe, but she never lost her composure.
After a slow start, scoring just six points through the first three quarters, Hickson turned it on in the fourth to lead the Tennessee Tech women to a 54-41 victory at the Hooper Eblen Center on Monday night.
"She's a competitor," said Tech head coach Kim Rosamond. "When I took her out in the third quarter, I was not pleased, but I credit Shug for staying positive, she continued to encourage her teammates, she kept herself ready to go. When I put her back in the game, she answered the call. She really changed the game for us."
Hickson hit a dagger of a shot with 6:01 remaining in the fourth quarter. Just seconds earlier with the play clock ticking down, Hickson lost her shoe and the offense continued to set up a play. Hickson got set, moved into her location and, after Hannah Goolsby fed her the ball, Hickson drained the 3-pointer with ease to make it a 46-33 game.
Hickson ended the game with 17 points, while Goolsby was Tech's other double-digit scorer with 11 points and a team-high eight rebounds and six assists. Treyvonna Brooks ended the game with nine points.
The victory put the first tally mark in the win column for head coach Kim Rosamond in her career.
"Any time you can get a win, it's a good win," Rosamond said. "We'll take it. We had a lot of things to learn from and improve upon. I'm a little exhausted right now, because Tennessee Wesleyan gave us all we wanted and more. You have to give them credit – they came in here and didn't back down. They didn't flinch. They fought and they played.
"Their offensive execution is really, really good and their spacing is as good as anybody you're going to see. They played confident and they played tough. Their second and third effort was just better than ours, and I think that was what I was most disappointed about. We obviously didn't shoot the ball well again until the fourth quarter, but to get outrebounded by a team that is much smaller than we are is extremely disappointing. We have got to figure that out."
The Golden Eagles were outrebounded 41-30 with Madison Walkup pulling down 12 boards.
Tech (1-1) opened the game on a 6-0 lead, but Wesleyan's drought ended as the two teams found themselves knotted at 10. The Golden Eagles built a 22-10 advantage, but the Bulldogs climbed back to 27-19 at the intermission.
Tennessee Wesleyan cut the deficit to 27-23 early in the third quarter, but Tech held on to a 35-27 advantage at the end of three quarters.
Tech's shooting on Monday contributed to that as the Golden Eagles shot 27.8 percent (5-for-18) from the field in the second quarter and 15.8 (3-for-19) in the third. Wesleyan was a consistent 33.3 percent from the floor in the first three quarters.
Tech shot at a 60-percent clip in the fourth quarter, draining nine of its 15 shots from the floor. The Bulldogs, however, went 4-for 15 in the final 10 minutes.
The Golden Eagles await the status of freshman guard Akia Harris, who went down with what appeared to be an ankle injury early in the first quarter. With the loss of Harris, Tech had to adapt its game plan.
"When Akia went out, that changed the game a little bit," Rosamond said. "It took us a little bit longer than I expected to figure it out, but we fought through some frustrations and finally focused ourselves on the defense to the end, then got our offense from our defense, which is what we needed to do."
The key for Tech turned to forcing turnovers. The Bulldogs turned the ball over 31 times, leading to 21 of the Golden Eagles' points.
Tech also didn't commit fouls, just charged with eight through the first 30 minutes and only putting the Bulldogs on the charity stripe for two shots in that span. The Golden Eagles ended up with 11 total fouls and the Bulldogs were 8-for-10 from the line.
Hunter Simpson lead Tennessee Wesleyan with 13 points, while Kenzie Coon added 10.
Tech returns to action on Thursday as it hosts UNC Greensboro in the Eblen Center at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are available at the Eblen Center ticket office, by calling (931) 372-3940 or by visiting www.ttusports.com.
Photo by Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information