By Nate Perry, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Now that they're in, it's time to get down to business
Tennessee Tech's Thursday night matchup with Akron in the Women's Basketball Invitational, which will tip at 6:00 p.m. CT inside the friendly confines of the Eblen Center, represents an opportunity to record the program's first win in a national postseason tournament since 2006.
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That occurrence came against Belmont, which was not yet a member of the Ohio Valley Conference, on March 15, 2006 in the Women's National Invitation Tournament. Tech prevailed in a thriller, 56-55.
Tech's last contest came against NCAA Tournament-bound Belmont in the OVC Tournament, in a game where the Golden Eagles held the Bruins to 62 points, matching the second-lowest output of the season for BU's high-powered offense.
With that defensive effort, Tech gave itself a great chance to move on to the tournament final, but was hampered by a difficult day shooting the ball (29.3 percent).
A senior playing in her final OVC Tournament, Kentoria Alexander was Tech's best all-around player over the two games.
The do-it-all guard averaged 8.5 points, 9.0 rebounds and 5.5 assists, highlighted by a performance against Belmont in which she led her team in all three categories with 10, 11 and four, respectively, for her second career double-double.
She played a role in a variety of causes against Austin Peay as well, totaling seven points, seven rebounds and a team-high seven assists.
Kesha Brady (16 points) and Mackenzie Coleman (18 points) were the stars against the Governors, combining to score 34 of Tech's 40 bench points in the contest. That number stood up to be the difference in the game when compared to the 10 tallies put forth by APSU's reserves.
Brady went 4-of-8 from the floor, and knocked down 7-of-9 from the free throw line in the victory, while playing the most minutes of any Golden Eagle reserve (28).
Coleman played one of her best games of the season, displaying a soft touch from several places on the floor en route to an 8-of-14 outing from the field. She also led her club with eight rebounds, and was very noticeable defensively with a team-high three blocks.
No one can discuss TTU women's basketball and blocked shots without mentioning Anacia Wilkinson. Another game means another chance for the lanky junior forward to add to her historic total this season, as she has accumulated a whopping 80 of them, obliterating the previous record of 61.
With more than half of the teams in Division I now dormant until the 2019-20 campaign, Wilkinson is also faced with an opportunity to improve on her No. 13 ranking on the national list for blocks.
Akron turned in a 16-14 record this season, with a 7-11 mark in a very tough Mid-American Conference – one of three traditional one-bid leagues in the country to have an at-large team in the NCAA Tournament (Central Michigan).
The Zips are currently riding a four-game losing skid, with their most recent loss coming to Eastern Michigan in the MAC Tournament. As the No. 8 seed, Akron fell at home to ninth-seeded EMU in heartbreaking fashion, 61-59.
Senior guard Megan Sefcik leads Akron with 17.1 points per game, followed by 5-foot, 4-inch guard Shaunay Edmonds (11.3 ppg) and 6-2 forward Haliegh Reinoehl (10.1 ppg), the team's other two double-digit scorers. Sefcik's scoring average is sixth-best in the MAC this season.
Reinoehl also leads the club in rebounding with 8.3 per game, with support coming from Ohio native Caitlin Vari (6.8).
Junior guard Shayna Harmon is primarily responsible for facilitating the Zips, dishing out 3.9 assists per game.
The first eight matchups between Tech and Akron came during UA's brief stint in the OVC from 1983-84 to 1986-87. Tech swept all eight of those meetings, and won the four home dates by an average of more than 25 points. The four games played in Akron were much closer, with all but one of them decided by six points or less.
After 25 seasons without an encounter, the two clubs set up a home-and-home as nonconference foes in 2012-13 and 2013-14. Akron won both of those games by double figures, equating to an overall series ledger of 8-2 in Tech's favor.
It will be the first time the teams have crossed paths in a tournament setting.
Photo by Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information