Balanced scoring, defense lead Tech past resilient Tennessee State in OVC opener

Balanced scoring, defense lead Tech past resilient Tennessee State in OVC opener

By Nate Perry, TTU Sports Information

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Tech was definitively the best team on the court for three quarters against Tennessee State Thursday night, and overcame a malfunctioning shot clock and a late Tiger run to win its first Ohio Valley Conference game of the season, 69-59, in TSU's Gentry Center.

"Any time you can go into a tough environment and start the conference season with a road win, that's huge," said coach Kim Rosamond. "I thought we played well through the first three quarters and handled some challenging circumstances very well. We were disciplined, and we kept our composure."

Jordan Brock led the Golden Eagles with a game-high 14 points, and got started before the game even tipped. Due to the shot clock issue, TSU was charged with a technical foul, and Brock knocked down both attempts from the free throw line on her way to a seven-point first quarter. Aided by Abby Buckner and Anacia Wilkinson, Brock would help orchestrate a 7-0 run later in the period that provided TTU a 21-13 cushion after one.

Buckner scored seven of her nine points in the first quarter, and shared the team lead in rebounds – with Kentoria Alexander – with seven boards. Wilkinson had five points, three rebounds, two blocks and one steal.

Wilkinson, the OVC's blocks leader with 2.9 per game, has recorded multiple blocked shots in nine of 12 games this season.

With two 3-pointers in the contest, Brock made the 99th and 100th trifectas of her Golden Eagle career, an impressive feat for a sophomore who has played just 41 games.

"Jordan's got a chance to put her name in the record books before she finishes here," Rosamond said. "I'm probably more excited about her defense tonight than I am about the 100 3-pointers, but obviously that is a great accomplishment for her. She spends a lot of time in the gym and works at that every single day. Shooting is her strength, and she brings that every time out."

Tech put together another nice showing defensively, holding TSU to 28 percent from the field and 15 percent from behind the three-point line. It was the fifth time in six games that Tech has held its opponent under 60 points.

Tech's margin widened in the second quarter, spurred by eight points from Akia Harris. The junior from Chattanooga went 4-of-6 from the free throw line and 2-of-3 from the field in the quarter, including a buzzer-beater triple that put Tech ahead 37-24 at the break.

Harris was TTU's second leading scorer in the game with 11 points, finished with four rebounds and two assists, and committed only two turnovers in 35 minutes of action.

"(Akia) is playing the way a team's minutes leader should play," Rosamond said. "I thought she did a really good job of keeping her composure tonight, and I'm really pleased with the way she handled the basketball."

The lead would swell to 21 points late in the third quarter as more Golden Eagles added to their scoring totals. All told, Tech had six players finish with at least seven points. Kesha Brady scored nine, Alexander had eight to go with her seven boards, and Lacy Cantrell had seven points and six rebounds.

Mackenzie Coleman joined Wilkinson in rounding out the scoring, tallying six points with six rebounds.

In the fourth quarter, a comfortable Tech lead shrunk to seven points with 4:56 remaining thanks to a 14-2 Tiger run. TSU unveiled its full-court pressure in the final period, and gave the Golden Eagles fits, forcing six turnovers.

However, TTU's free throw prowess (73.7 percent as a team) was once again the remedy, as Tech made 7-of-8 from the charity stripe over the last 3-minutes, 14-seconds to keep TSU at bay.

"The tide turned in that fourth quarter, and it seemed like they had every bit of the momentum," said Rosamond. "We lost that composure that we played with, but what I'm so proud of, is that we found it again."

"We don't like the way we handled the press, and we don't like the turnovers in the fourth quarter, but at the end of the day, the kids found a way."

"Any conference win is a good win, and any road conference win is a great win."

With its first league victory under its belt, Tech will now get a date with two-time defending OVC champion Belmont, in Nashville, on Saturday afternoon. Tip time is set for 3 p.m. from the Bruins' Curb Event Center.

Photo by Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information