Ranked Cardinal women offer Golden Eagles tough opening test

Coach Amy Brown and the Golden Eagle women's team aren't wasting any time facing a tough test - in fact, the University of Louisville Cardinals could be the best opponent on Tennessee Tech's 2008-09 schedule.

Louisville, which went 26-10 last year and reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, is ranked in the Top 10 nationally in many preseason polls this season. Saturday, the 10th ranked Cardinals open the regular season with their visit to Eblen Center.

It will be Tech's second consecutive game against a Top 25 opponent, although from two different levels. The Golden Eagles won their exhibition game in Eblen Center on Monday night, claiming a 64-50 win over Tusculum, which is ranked 12th nationally in NAIA polls.

Louisville also went undefeated in its exhibition games, claiming a pair of victories. First, it was a 94-69 Louisville win over the ASGR All-Stars on Nov. 3, at home. Three players scored in double figures, led by Candyce Bingham with 18 points and eight rebounds. Angel McCoughtry had 17 and Brandie Radde added 16. UL forced 27 turnovers and 38 percent shooting by the All-Stars.

"Louisville is very good, and they're very well coached," Tech head coach Amy Brown said. "We need to be very mentally prepared heading into this game."

Coach Jeff Walz' team shot 51 percent and got double figure scoring from four players in a 90-73 road win at Northern Kentucky last Saturday in the team's second exhibition game. Bingham's 17 points and six rebounds led UL, while Keshia Hines had 14, McCoughtry 12 and Janae Howard scored 11.

If Monday's win is any indication, Tech can look forward to a mixture of contributions from newcomers and veterans, including solid leadership from starting seniors Allison Price, Meagan Lyons and Blair Bowens.

"We have three very experienced guards," Brown said. "They have been a big part of helping the younger players learn."

Sophomore Jasmine White, who played in all 30 games in a backup role last season, was in the starting lineup for the first time Monday and responded with a game-high 18 points along with seven rebounds. White was 6-for-11 from the field and 5-for-7 at the charity line, and was one of three Golden Eagles to score in double digits.

"Jasmine has looked great, and we are going to rely on her more and more," Brown said. "We need her to be a consistent performer for us. She's still a young player, but we're going to look for her production a lot this season."

Point guard Alison Price had 13 points along with five steals, while Lyons added 11 points, seven steals, four rebounds and three assists. Tech's defense forced 16 steals in the contest and 30 turnovers by the Pioneers.

Bowens had a solid game, chipping in with seven points, five rebounds and sharing the team-lead with thee assists.

The newcomer who had the greatest impact on the box score was center Vivian Nwosu, a 6-foot-3 junior from San Antonio, Texas. After sitting out last season due to NCAA rules, Nwosu finished the contest with seven points in her first action in purple and gold. Freshman Krystal Stirrup, a 5-11 forward who also hails from San Antonio, Texas, had six rebounds and scored three points in her debut.

This year's Golden Eagles must replace three seniors, including leading scorer and second-team all-OVC center Kristina Tyler, who averaged 14.2 points and added seven rebounds per game. Also gone are Cara Reed and Marissa Hensley.

Tech and Louisville have met twice before Saturday's tilt, but it has been 25 years since the last time they played. The series is tied, with each team claiming one victory. Louisville captured a two-point win (62-60) during the 1981-82 season. The following year, with Jerilynn Harper leading coach Marynell Meadors' Golden Eagles, Tech survived for a six-point (83-77) victory.

The next action for the Golden Eagle women's team comes next Tuesday (Nov. 18) when they play the first game of a doubleheader at Lipscomb University. Next Saturday night (Nov. 22), the Golden Eagles are at Belmont University, Tech's next home contest is Tuesday, Nov. 25, when Drake University visits the Eblen Center.

Individual game tickets and season tickets are currently on sale and can be purchased at either the Athletic Ticket Office in Eblen Center or by calling (931) 372-3940. Tickets are also on sale online at TTUsports.com