COOKEVILLE, Tenn. - It took a complete team effort for the Tennessee Tech women's basketball team to get past Belmont on Saturday, and the Golden Eagles (5-4, 1-0 OVC) will need an equally balanced effort on Wednesday when they look to extend their winning streak to five games at St. Louis.
That will be no easy task against the Billikens (4-7, 0-0 Atlantic 10) who will enter the contest three games below .500 after playing a challenging preconference schedule - much like the Golden Eagles. St. Louis has fallen to the likes of Missouri State, Loyola Marymount, Indiana and Creighton, but the Billikens also have a trio of impressive wins against Oakland, Arkansas State and Montana.
Both the Golden Eagles and St. Louis have played Southern Illinois so far this season. Tech defeated SIU, 59-56, at Eblen Center, while St. Louis handed the Salukis a 71-45 loss to start the 2009-10 season.
The Golden Eagles will be at a significant height disadvantage on Wednesday as six Billikens stand 6-foot or taller, with 6-foot-4 Amanda Kemezys heading that group. Kemezys recently earned Atlantic 10 Player of the Week honors after averaging 20.0 points and 11.5 rebounds in a pair of games last week.
However, Tech finds itself in a very familiar position as the Golden Eagles have been the undersized team in virtually every game this season. With just three players standing at exactly 6-foot, the Golden Eagles have utilized their quickness and athleticism to make up for their lack of inches. Never was that more evident than in Saturday's victory over Belmont, when Tiara Hopper battled her way to a career night that earned her OVC Freshman of the Week honors.
Hopper, a 5-foot-11 forward, was matched up against Belmont's 6-foot-4 center for most of the evening but was unfazed as she scored a career-high 14 points and tied her personal best with 10 rebounds in 36 minutes of action.
Along with the play down low, another key to the game against the Billikens could be bench production. The Golden Eagle reserves have significantly out-played their counterparts in the last two games, holding a 20-5 scoring advantage against Southern Illinois and out-scoring Belmont's bench, 37-7. Hopper and sophomore Rachel Glidden have been sparkplugs off head coach Sytia Messer's bench, especially of late. Glidden is averaging 13.0 points per game over her last three contests and ranks sixth in the OVC in 3-pointers made per game.
Wednesday's contest will mark the first-ever match-up between Tech and St. Louis and just the fourth time that the Golden Eagles have played a team from the Atlantic 10 Conference. Tech won two of the previous three games against the A10, most recently during the 1989-90 season when the Golden Eagles defeated Richmond, 77-59.
Tip-off for Wednesday's game is scheduled for 2 p.m. Golden Eagle fans can following along with live stats, which will be available through www.slubillikens.com.