By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information
EDWARDVILLE, Ill. – It's the final week of Ohio Valley Conference regular-season action, and despite already having a spot locked up for next week's conference tournament in Evansville, Ind., there's still plenty for the Tennessee Tech women to play for.
The Golden Eagles (19-8, 11-5 OVC) will head first to SIUE on Thursday night. The Cougars enter the game with a 12-15 record, 7-9 in league play. SIUE has split its last four games and lost seven of its last 10. The Cougars defeated Tennessee State 66-55 and fell to Belmont 87-54 in road action last weekend.
On the other side of the coin, Tech is 5-5 in its last 10 games, following a nine-game winning streak that included the Golden Eagles' home contest against the Cougars back on January 10. Tech knocked off Eastern Kentucky 77-57 on Thursday, then fell 73-70 to Morehead State on Saturday to complete last week's slate.
Top off at the Vadalabene Center Thursday night is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Dylan Vazzano will provide the call on 106.1 The Eagle, while the game will also be broadcast on ESPN+ (subscription required).
As the league stands entering Thursday's contest, Belmont has already claimed the regular-season title and the top seed at next week's Ohio Valley Conference Women's Basketball Championship presented by Visit Evansville. Tech, UT Martin and Morehead State are knotted in the standings at 11-5 each with the 2-4 spots up for grabs, while Austin Peay (9-7) is two games back of the pack, followed by Jacksonville State and Murray State (8-8 each). SIUE and Southeast Missouri – at 7-9 – are both trying to play their way into next week's field.
And that's what makes Thursday's contest important. With the Cougars eager to earn their seventh straight conference tournament berth – and avoid missing the event for the first time since making its inaugural visit to the postseason event in 2013.
Tech is 5-7 against the Cougars in a series dating back only to 2010 – they joined the conference in the 2011-12 campaign. The Golden Eagles have only won twice in the Vadalabene Center with wins in 2011 and 2013. Tech has lost its last three in Edwardsville.
In the previous meeting in the Eblen Center, Jordan Brock led the Golden Eagles with 20 points as she knocked down six of her 11 3-point tries, while Tech had four other players in double-digit scoring. Anacia Wilkerson picked up a double-double with 12 points and 12 boards, while Mackenzie Coleman had 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting, Kentoria Alexander added 11 and Kesha Brady chipped in with 10.
Tech led 38-29 at halftime, but the second half ended the Cougars' chances as they shot 31.3 percent in the third and 15.0 percent in the fourth as the Golden Eagles outscored them 41-26 in the second half. Christen King led SIUE in scoring with 21 points, while Sydney Bauman had a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
Nakiah Bell, SIUE's leading scorer averaging 8.7 points a game, was held to three points in the contest. The Cougars have five players averaging 8.0 points or better, with Bell also standing as the team's top 3-point shooter (50-for-148, .342) and second-best at the free-throw line with double-digit attempts with a 13-of-16 (.813) clip. Bauman is the team's top rebounder, grabbing 8.3 caroms a game, followed by Allie Troeckler at 5.9.
For Tech, Brock stands as Tech's top scorer, averaging 12.4 points a game as she is .381 from the floor, .377 from beyond the arc and .886 at the charity stripe. Wilkinson leads the Golden Eagles with 6.4 rebounds a game, followed closely by Alexander with 5.8 and Abby Buckner at 4.7.
Tech is averaging 71 points a game, while allowing 64.9, and is shooting .408 as a team, including .336 from long-range. Tech is .773 from the free-throw line – the top rate in the OVC. SIUE, in comparison, is averaging 61.5 points a game and allowing 64.7. The Cougars are shooting .383 as a team, .294 from 3-point range and .648 at the line.
The Golden Eagles stand in fourth in the OVC in scoring offense, fifth in scoring defense, while SIUE is ninth offensively and fourth defensively.
Photo by Thomas Corhern