By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – When you can put together a multi-faceted effort like the Tennessee Tech women did on Thursday night against Eastern Kentucky, it definitely makes a team tough to beat.
The visiting Colonels found out the hard way, falling to 0-15 in the Ohio Valley Conference as the Golden Eagles surged to a 77-57 victory. With the win, Tech is in sole possession of second place in the conference standings with three games remaining in the regular season.
"It was very, very balanced," Tech head coach Kim Rosamond said. "That's a credit to our players refocusing. Everybody, especially in the second half on both ends of the floor, did their job. We have to do that Saturday night (against Morehead State)."
Tech (19-7, 11-4 OVC) was paced with tremendous scoring efforts from Kentoria Alexander (16 points on 5-of-7 shooting) and Akia Harris (15 points, including 3-for-4 beyond the arc). The Golden Eagles also had double-digit scoring efforts from Lacy Cantrell (11) and Kesha Brady (10).
"I think we really needed that coming off of (Saturday's loss to Belmont)," Rosamond said. "We haven't been shooting the ball extremely well. Making shots is contagious, just like missing shots is contagious. I thought when Akia came out and hit two early 3s, it just gave us a lot of energy and a lot of confidence."
But it wasn't just scoring. Tech also employed a balanced effort on the boards, led by Anacia Wilkinson's seven caroms and Cantrell's six. There was also great ball movement as Harris collected six dimes and Abby Buckner five.
"As a point guard, the ball is always in my hands," Harris said. "I try to make the best decision and hit whoever's open."
To call it a total team effort would be an apt expression, because through the course of the four quarters, nearly every member of the Golden Eagle lineup found a way to contribute to the victory.
"That was a big emphasis for tonight," Rosamond said. "We did some different things this week. Once you get into February, it's not about quantity of practice, but quality. We were putting up a lot of shots on Monday. We had a very intense practice – we went hard and got after it. We did the same thing on Tuesday and backed off of them a little on Wednesday.
"Our word for the week has been accountability. Everybody had to be accountable for themselves and had to do their job. We have been inconsistent with that. One game, you have someone doing their job. The next game, they're not doing it at the level they did the game before. We got back to focusing on doing our job so we could play good team basketball and the team to be successful. We just needed to reboot a little bit."
However, it was a close one until the third quarter. Even though Tech paced the early flow of the game, knocking down its first three shots – all 3-pointers – to take a 9-0 lead, the Colonels surged back, tying the game at 15 with 4:11 in the opening quarter.
But that was the only time EKU knotted the score. Tech took a 22-19 lead at the end of the first, then extended its lead by one point to take a 38-34 lead into the locker room at the intermission.
Still the 3-point shooting early on still put the Golden Eagles at a solid pace and gave them some much needed momentum.
"We take what the defense gives us," Harris said. "They were leaving us on the perimeter, so we just had to focus and knock it down."
Then a 27-9 effort in the third quarter sealed the visiting Colonels' fate. Tech was on fire in the quarter, shooting 10-for-16 from the floor, a scorching 62.5-percent clip, then was 5-for-7 (71.4 percent) at the charity stripe.
"I think if we could bottle that third quarter – that effort, that energy, the way we pushed in transition as our pace – it really wore on them," Rosamond said. "I'm proud of how we played in the second half. I thought we played well offensively in the first half, but I didn't like how we defended. We made some adjustments and asked the kids to do some things that we hadn't worked on in a while. They went out there and did their job."
In comparison, EKU shot 4-for-14 from the floor (28.6 percent), a stark contrast to the 57.1 and 55.6 percent rates shot in the first two periods.
"They really got into a rhythm in the first half," Rosamond said. "While I thought we had some breakdowns, I thought a lot of those was they hit shots in our face. They just got really comfortable and we needed to change it up and get them out of that rhythm."
For the game, Tech hit 29 of its 57 shots, a solid 50.9-percent effort. The 5-for-7 from behind the 3-point line in the third quarter was the best stretch for the Golden Eagles, who finished 11-for-27 for the game from long range.
The Golden Eagles return to action on Saturday as they host Morehead State (19-9, 10-5 OVC) in a 5:30 p.m. tipoff. The game will be Senior Night as the team recognizes its seniors.
"Morehead State is one of the most, if not THE most talented team in the league as far as individual players," Rosamond said. "They're extremely athletic and long at every position. That's given us problems this year. The Morehead game there was a lot like the Arkansas game. We haven't responded well.
"I'm excited because it's a great opportunity. It's a great challenge, but it's another opportunity for us to get it right this time. In the two matchups against teams like that, we haven't played well. We won't go hard tomorrow, but we'll get back in here and we'll get focused on Morehead. I'm excited to see how we come out here and respond. It's a big night for our seniors and we'll play hard for them, but we've also got a lot to play for in these last three games."