JACKSONVILLE, Tenn. – It’s an elite list that
includes only a few schools -- Tennessee, Louisiana Tech, Old
Dominion, Stephen F. Austin, James Madison and Texas.
And now, add Tennessee Tech.
The Golden Eagles became only the seventh Division I women’s basketball program in history to record 800 all-time victories.
Coach Amy Brown’s team did it Saturday afternoon at Jacksonville State with a convincing 78-46 Ohio Valley Conference victory over the Gamecocks in the final regular season game of the year. Blair Bowens scored a career-best 31 to pace Tech. “I told the kids yesterday at practice that they have a chance to make history for the program,” said Brown. “It’s great to have this momentum, being able to win by that margin only gives us confidence.”
Tech (9-20/7-11 OVC) has won five of its last seven games heading into the OVC Tournament, which begins next Tuesday. Tech is the No. 7 seed and will play at (either Eastern Illinois or Tennessee State).
“Out kids believe we are the hottest team in the conference right now,” Brown said. “We can enjoy it today, but tomorrow we have to get back to work and get ready for Tuesday.”
Bowens and her teammates are looking forward to the tournament.
“I’m really excited that we’re hot right now heading into the tournament,” said Bowens.” The thing about the tournament is it’s a whole new season.”
Tech improved to 5-2 in February by controlling the boards and using a familiar formula against the Gamecocks – lots of clutch scoring from Bowens and balance from the rest of the lineup.
For the fifth time in Bowens’ career, the Tuscumbia, Ala., native upped her career-high against Jacksonville State, this time scorching the nets for 31 points including 6-for-10 from long range.
“It was my last trip to Alabama, so it was nice to be able to do that and get a win,” Bowens said. She scored 24 earlier this year against the Gamecocks.
Freshman Krystal Stirrup added 11 points and eight rebounds, while Jasmine White and Vivian Nwosu scored 10 apiece.
“We got really strong play from the post,” Brown said. “They combined for 37 points and 24 rebounds.”
Tech also limited the Gamecocks to 33.3 percent shooting accuracy and had a 42-32 advantage in rebounds.
“Blair played phenomenal, especially shooting the basketball,” Brown said. “But, you have to give credit to her teammates, too. They are the ones who got her the ball when she was open, and she was able to knock down her shots.”
Bowens had 13 in the first half and five other players were in on the scoring as Tech took control of the game and built a double-digit advantage that was as large as 15 points in the final four minutes of the period.
Down 8-4 early, Bowens it a 3-pointer to start a 13-0 run that ended when she scored a jumper five minutes later to make it 17-8. When Krystal Stirrup hit two free throws with 4:14 remaining, Tech was on top by a 28-13 margin.
Jacksonville State came back with a 6-0 run to make it a nine-point game, 28-19, before heading to the locker room with the Golden Eagles owning a 31-19 edge. Tech had a 25-14 advantage in rebounds in the first 20 minutes. The Tech defense also limited JSU to 27.3 percent shooting in the opening half (6-for-22).
That halftime lead was a good omen for Tech – the Golden Eagles have owned the lead at the intermission in all nine of their wins this year.
Bowens and Meagan Lyons hit 3-pointers to start the second half scoring and the lead was up to 18 points. The lead remained in the teens for the first nine minutes of the half, and jumped to 21 points with 11:10 remaining on another 3-pointer by Bowens to make it 55-34.
With 4:06 remaining, Tacarra Hayes made a free throw to crank Tech’s lead to 30 points for the first time, 68-38.
The Gamecocks, who suffered their second-worst loss of the season, were led by Destiny Lane with 10 points and eight rebounds.
Tech downed JSU 84-60 way back on Dec. 6, in the first conference game of the year. The Golden Eagles now lead the all-time series with JSU, 9-3.
Despite the loss, Jacksonville State will play next week in the OVC Tournament, winning a tie-breaker with Eastern Kentucky for the No. 8 seed.