Golden Eagles build early lead, hold on for 63-56 win over UTM

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. - Meagan Lyons inched closer to 1,000 points and Blair Bowens climbed over 900 points, and the two seniors keyed a strong first half that carried Tennessee Tech to a 63-56 Ohio Valley Conference victory over UT Martin Thursday night in Eblen Center.

The win wasn't without drama, as UT Martin pulled to within three points in the final three minutes on a 3-pointer by Sienna Forney before Bowens scored the final four points of the game.

With Tech up by just three points, Lyons made a key play to save a ball from going out of bounds, and the Golden Eagles used that critical possession to get a driving layup from Bowens.

Lyons scored 10 in the first period and finished with 19 points, raising her career total to 992 points. Bowens had 11 first-half markers and wound up leading the Golden Eagles with 21 points. That bumped her career total to 914.

Lyons also tied a career-high with eight assists and added five steals. Bowens had five rebounds, three assists and two steals. Tech also got 13 points and nine rebounds from junior Vivian Nwosu.

Three players scored in double figures for the Skyhawks, led by Sienna Forney and Yalonda Davis with 15 each, and Alisha Glover with 13.

Tech has now won 11 of the past 12 games over UT Martin, and improved the all-time series record to 41-12. Tech snapped a seven-game losing streak to improve to 2-4 in OVC play and 4-13 overall.

UT Martin slipped to 0-6 within the league and 2-14 overall.

Tech shot 54.5 percent in the first half - a mark topped only twice this year by the Golden Eagles -- and that accuracy, coupled with a defense that forced 11 UTM turnovers, allowed coach Amy Brown's team to build an early cushion.

The Golden Eagles owned the first eight minutes of the game, rolling to a 10-0 lead before UTM dented the scoreboard. Tech's lead was 20-11 with 12 minutes to play in the period after hitting four of their first six 3-pointers. Tech started the game 6-for-9 from the field during that span.

The Golden Eagles cooled off a little - only a little -- after that, and maintained their advantage in double figures until the break. The lead grew to 16 points when Lyons drained a baseline jumper to make it 29-13.

Phyllisha Mitchell hit a 3-pointer to spark a surge by UT Martin. She had five points during a 9-2 Skyhawk run to trim the difference to nine points, 31-22, with 4:03 to play before Tech pushed it back to double figures.

Nwosu scored the final four points of the half and Tech closed the period on a 5-0 run to head into the dressing room with a 14-point lead, 36-22.

The Skyhawks pulled the lead down to four points, 47-43, on a layup by Glover with 10:33 remaining, but Tech responded with a 10-2 run to regain a double-figure edge.

Once again, UT Martin came battling back, going on an 11-2 rally to get it down to 59-56. Forney scored seven of those points, including the bomb with 2:55 left that made it a one-possession contest.

With a minute to play, Jasmine White attempted a shot as the 30-second clock wound down. It hit the rim and was heading out of bounds in the corner where Lyons leaped and snared it, turned and fired it back to White. Tech got the ball to Bowens, who split the defense for a layup and some breathing room.

After hitting 54.5 percent in the first half, Tech shot 33.3 in the second half and finished the game at 45 percent. The Golden Eagles had only 11 turnovers.

UT Marin hit 40 percent in the first half and a blazing 77.8 percent in the second half, finishing the game with a 50 percent mark. The Skyhawks held a 26-22 edge in rebounds.

The next action for the Golden Eagles will put Tech in the national spotlight as ESPNU will show Saturday's game against Murray State to a nationwide audience. Tipoff in Eblen Center is at 5:05, and doors to the arena open at 4 p.m.

Saturday is "Pack the House" Night, with several special events and activities planned. For ticket information, call (931) 372-3940 or visit the Athletics Ticket Office in Eblen Center Friday during regular business hours.