TTU comes up short to Austin Peay in first home loss

(Photo: Tennessee Tech Athletics)

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech women’s basketball team’s streak of dominance inside the Hooper Eblen Center came to an end on Thursday night, as the Golden Eagles suffered their second conference loss of the season to a scrappy, upstart Austin Peay club, 71-65.

“Obviously a disappointing night,” said head coach Kim Rosamond. “I thought Austin Peay was the tougher team tonight. They outhustled us, out-toughed us, and at times, just played a whole lot smarter than we did for three and a half quarters. The last three minutes, we showed a sense of urgency that we hadn’t showed the entire game.”

Tech fell to 15-5 and 7-2 in the OVC with the loss, which saw the team post season lows for field goal percentage (35.8 percent) and 3-point field goal percentage (30 percent) in the Hoop, and get outrebounded by the Governors – a team not known for their prowess on the glass – 40-34.

“We didn’t shoot the ball well,” Rosamond said. “We started the fourth quarter 1-of-11, got outrebounded by six, and only got to the free-throw line 15 times. That is a recipe for a lack of success.”

“In this league, teams are able to put up points, and we have to be able to finish on both ends of the floor. We didn’t finish tonight. We left probably 10 to 15 points on the court, and I’m talking about bunnies right around the basket that we normally make.”

The tilt was close throughout, as it featured just one double-digit lead. The Golden Eagles’ deficit would hover around five points for most of the second half, but a furious rally in the closing minutes was not enough to get over the hump.

“Our kids just kept fighting,” said Rosamond of her team’s comeback bid. “We got some turnovers, got some stops, started shooting the basketball (better), and started finishing a little bit better. We started being the aggressor, which we weren’t the entire game.

“Give Austin Peay credit. They were the aggressor from the start until the last three minutes. We talked about it for the last three days. We knew their strengths were their toughness and grit, and we knew we had to attack them, and for whatever reason, we didn’t do that. We started doing it toward the end of the game, but it was too little, too late at that point.

Kentoria Alexander was Tech’s leading scorer in the game with 14 points, the second-best output of her career. She connected on 2-of-3 3-pointers, with one of them beating the halftime buzzer and temporarily swinging the momentum back in TTU’s favor.

She also grabbed six rebounds and doled out four assists, which were the team’s second-highest totals in each category.

The senior from Tullahoma now has 14 games this season with six or more rebounds, 12 games with eight-plus points, and 10 with at least four assists.

“I think Kentoria has been playing the way a senior should play – not just tonight, but all year,” said Rosamond. “I think she is a burst of energy for us. She’s a kid that can get to the rim and create a lot of havoc on both ends of the floor. I thought she did some really good things tonight.”

“As a senior, Coach Rosamond has been teaching me a lot about leadership, and about having energy when nobody else has it,” Alexander said. “I was just trying to keep everybody up, keep them going.”

Tech got two solid scoring performances off the bench as well, as Kesha Brady poured in 12 points and Anacia Wilkinson had 10.

Brady finished 4-of-7 from the floor, and hit a pair of 3-balls that gave the Golden Eagles a lift in the first half. She also recorded five rebounds and three assists.

Wilkinson’s 10 points marked her seventh game in double figures this season, and her team-high nine rebounds left her one short of a double-double.

After failing to record a blocked shot for the first time this season at EKU, the best eraser in the OVC was a major defensive factor on Thursday night, swatting five Austin Peay shot attempts.

Her quintet of blocks put her over the century mark for her career with 102, and moved her into the No. 7 slot on Tech’s all-time career list.

Jordan Brock played a season-low 20 minutes in the contest, as early foul trouble forced her to spend a significant amount of time on the bench. The sophomore endured a tough shooting night when she was on the floor, riding a 1-for-6 performance until the final two minutes of the game.

Brock then played a significant role in the last-minute comeback, burying two triples under heavy pressure that gave her team a chance in the late stages.

She finished with 11 points, giving her double-digit outputs in each of her past 11 games.

Akia Harris put up decent numbers in several columns of the box score, contributing eight points, a team-high five assists, and three steals.

Lacy Cantrell had six points, and Abby Buckner and Taylor Lamb each had two to round out the scoring.

“I’ve got a locker room that’s hurting right now because these kids want to win,” Rosamond said. “We just have to take this and respond from it. We have to let it teach us some lessons about how we have to play for four quarters.

“We have to get our fire back, and our fight. I believe in these kids, and I know we’ll do that on Saturday in another big game against Murray State.”

TTU will return to a 5:30 p.m. start time for that matchup with Murray, which will also be the program’s annual Play4Kay game.

Guests are encouraged to wear pink in support of those affected by cancer.