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Rivalry resumes as Golden Eagles host Evansville Purple Aces

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- That rumbling noise you might hear coming from the court during warm-ups Thursday night could be the Golden Eagles snarling at their visitors.

The Tennessee Tech women's basketball team will host Evansville at 7 p.m. in Eblen Center, and the Golden Eagles don't plan to be gracious hosts -- on the floor.

A year ago, Evansville treated the Golden Eagles in a less-than-friendly manner by sending Tech home with a 72-56 loss. Now the Golden Eagles would like to repay the favor.

The series between these two teams isn't very long, with just seven games over the past eight years, but it has developed into a strong rivalry.

Evansville's win last year put the Purple Aces ahead in the series, 4-3.

Tech is 2-1 against Evansville in Eblen Center, including a 73-65 victory in 2005-06, the last time UE visited.

Evansville is off to a 6-3 start, including a 24-point win over Lipscomb, a double-overtime win over Samford and a five-point victory over defending OVC champ Murray State. The Aces also suffered a 35-point loss to No. 15 Notre Dame and fell in OT at Ball State.

The Aces have received balanced scoring, with four players averaging in double figures. Robyn Jennings tops the list with 14.6 points per game along with a team-best 7.5 rebounds. A 5-11 senior from Rineyville, Ky., she's shooting 54 percent from the field and 59 percent from long distance.

Shannon Novosel, a 6-1 senior from Lexington, and Ashley Austin, a 5-9 senior from Lawrenceville, Ga., are scoring 10.6 points per game. Amy Gallagher, a 5-10 junior from Neligh, Neb., is adding 10.1 points. All three are also grabbing at least 5.0 rebounds per contest.

Tech has been off for 12 days, after dismantling Jacksonville State, 84-60, on Saturday, Dec. 6. The win snapped a five-game losing streak, and gave Tech a 2-6 record. Since then, the Golden Eagles spent a week in final exams while preparing to host the Aces.

Tech is also exhibiting very balanced scoring this season, with five different players bunched near the top of the stats sheet.

Senior Blair Bowens, who scored a career-high 24 against JSU, leads Tech in scoring with 12.6 points per game. Freshman Krystal Stirrup is second on the team in points, averaging 9.4 per game, and also ranks second on the team in rebounds with 6.1 per game.

Allison Price, the team leader in assists, is scoring 9.1 points per game. Meagan Lyons, the team leader in steals, is adding 8.9 points per game. Sophomore Jasmine White is scoring 8.8 points per game and leads Tech in rebounds with 7.0 per game.

Last year, Tech outscored Evansville 26-10 over the final eight minutes. The only catch is that the Golden Eagles trailed by 32 points when they began their late charge, and finished the contest on the short end of the 16-point margin in Roberts Stadium.

Evansville took advantage of Tech's cold early shooting and troublesome ball-handling over the first seven minutes of the game, allowing the Purple Aces to jump out to a 14-0 lead. The hosts led 38-12 at halftime, and built their lead to 62-30 with 8:29 remaining.

Holly Rogers scored a career-high 20 points to lead Tech, as the Golden Eagles battled foul trouble from the start. Kristina Tyler fouled out with nine points and seven rebounds after seeing only 15 minutes of playing time. Tech was whistled for 26 fouls in the game and was outscored at the free throw line, 21-8.

The Purple Aces didn't race out to their 14-0 lead, but slowly built their edge as the Golden Eagles opened the contest with numerous mistakes.

Blair Bowens finished with eight points and four rebounds and Meagan Lyons added six points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals. Allison Price led Tech with five assists.

Parker finished with 20 points and seven rebounds for Evansville. Five Aces scored seven or eight points in the balanced attack, including Shannon Novosel, who posted eight points and 10 rebounds.

UP NEXT: The Golden Eagles visit Southern Illinois on Sunday afternoon, then take a holiday break. Tech returns to action with two home games in the week before New Years, hosting Middle Tennessee on Sunday afternoon, Dec. 28, at 2 p.m., and Memphis on Tuesday (Dec. 30) at 7 p.m.