By Nate Perry, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – With last Friday's 15-point victory over Lipscomb in hand, the Tennessee Tech women's basketball team has an opportunity to accomplish a feat not seen in the last 26 seasons of the program's history.
Tech squares off with Tennessee Wesleyan at home on Saturday night at 6 p.m., and can pick up its eighth nonconference victory in the process. While there have been a handful of seasons over the past 20 years that have produced seven nonconference wins, TTU has not reached eight since the 1990-91 campaign, when Bill Worrell's team went 9-6 in regular-season non-league play.
A win would also cap a perfect 5-0 record at home during the nonconference slate, and keep Tech undefeated in its four matchups against teams from the state of Tennessee.
The Golden Eagles come into Saturday night's game on a two-game winning streak, having downed UNC Asheville and Lipscomb last week. In both games, Tech put forth a sterling defensive effort in the first half, holding the Bulldogs and the Bisons to just 15 points and less than 25 percent shooting through the first 20 minutes.
Tech's defensive play has taken a step forward in the month of December, allowing an average of 53.8 points per game in four contests. That number contrasts with the six-game game average from the month of November, when the Golden Eagles gave up 63.7 points per tilt.
One of the main offensive storylines from the win over Lipscomb was the emergence of sophomore forward Mackenzie Coleman, who helped TTU score 34 points in the paint, which led to the team's best field goal percentage in a road game this season, 45.6 percent.
TENNESSEE WESLEYAN PROFILE
Tennessee Wesleyan is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), as well as the Appalachian Athletic Conference (AAC). It was one of the founding institutions of the AAC back in 2001.
Wesleyan is off to a 6-4 start in 2018-19 and a 4-4 ledger in AAC play. The Bulldogs have not played a regular-season game since Dec. 5, but are riding a two-game winning streak with victories over Columbia International University and Bluefield College.
Thirteenth-year head coach Jeff Rice has put together an impressive resume at the helm for TWU, as the five-time AAC Coach of the Year has led his Bulldog program to six league championships and six NAIA National Tournament appearances.
Senior guard Hunter Simpson is the undisputed leader of Rice's club, pacing the Bulldogs in points (18.1), rebounds (9.4) and assists (4.2) per game. Both her scoring and rebounding averages are among the top 20 in the NAIA.
Sophomore guard Hannah Cherry is the other double-digit per-game scorer for the TWU offense at 10.3, and adds 4.3 rebounds per game.
Guards Gina Dick and Hannah Troutt are also major contributors to the Bulldogs' rebounding effort, averaging 6.2 and 5.2 boards per game, respectively.
Tech has won all six of the meetings between the two teams in a series that dates back to 2010. The Golden Eagles' average margin of victory in those six wins was 28.3 points.
Three victories - the 2010, 2012 and 2013 renewals - came by more than 30 points, while the other three - in 2011, 2016 and 2017 - came by less than 20.
Tech and Wesleyan have met in each of Kim Rosamond's first two seasons in charge of the TTU program.
Tech prevailed 54-41 in 2016 behind 17 points from Yaktavia Hickson and 11 from from Asia Harper. Anacia Wilkinson started that contest and contributed seven points, four rebounds and two blocked shots.
Last year's meeting came in the season opener, with Tech taking an 84-66 victory. Kesha Brady and Jordan Brock made their freshmen debuts that night, and scored 21 points and 20 points, respectively, making them the first two freshmen to burst onto the scene with 20 or more since Kellie Cook had 22 against Alabama in 2009-10.
Brady also pulled down six rebounds and swiped a team-high four steals, while Brock had three steals.
Akia Harris played well that night, too, pouring in 14 points with a team-leading five assists and three steals.
Photo by Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information