By Layne Weitzel, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – All of Tennessee Tech's 2017-18 conference wins have been nail-biters.
Thursday night at the Hoop was no different, as Tech took a 68-65 win over Tennessee State to split the season series with the Lady Tigers.
Tech's wins in conference play haven't come easy this season – all four (vs. Austin Peay, at Eastern Illinois, at Jacksonville State, vs. Tennessee State) have been by four points or less. Fourteen of Tech's 17 OVC games have been decided by single-digits.
But Tech was the team to come out on the winning side tonight, switching leads with Tennessee State (6-20, 4-13 OVC) 18 times. The most important lead change came with 44 seconds left in the game, as Kentoria Alexander made her only two free-throw tries of the night to put the Golden Eagles ahead 66-65. Teammate MacKenzie Coleman would make her two free throws as well to give Tech a three-point cushion.
Tech then fended off two TSU 3-point attempts in the waning seconds of the game to come away with its fifth win in the last six games of its series with the Lady Tigers. The comeback, spurred by Tech's 24 points in the fourth quarter, erased TSU's eight-point fourth-quarter lead.
"We've been on the other end of that a lot," head coach Kim Rosamond said of the close win. "I want to credit our kids. We've been in that position a lot this year and come out on the wrong side of it a lot, and they were still locked in tonight."
Yaktavia "Shug" Hickson received her second-straight First National Bank of Tennessee-Special Olympics Player of the Game honor after her third double-double this season. The senior paced Tech with 23 points to mark her eighth-straight double-figure performance, along with 10 rebounds and a key block on one of TSU's attempted 3-pointers to finish the game.
Jordan Brock followed with 15 points, and MacKenzie Coleman came just a point and a rebound away from a double-double of her own.
Tech forced 19 TSU turnovers, its fourth-straight game of forcing 15 or more from an opponent, and committed a season-low of 11. The Golden Eagles also won the battle from the free-throw line, hitting 17 of their 19 tries to total an 89.5 percentage. Tennessee State shot 88.9 percent, but off of only nine attempts (8-of-9). TSU entered tonight's game as the best free-throw-shooting team in the league, averaging 24.2 attempts per game and hitting 75.4 percent of them.