Messer: Schedule designed to help young Golden Eagle team develop in 2010-11

Click here to view the 2010-2011 Women's Basketball Schedule

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – All the pieces are in place for the Tennessee Tech women’s basketball team to return to the upper echelon of the Ohio Valley Conference this winter, including the return of the team’s top players and a recruiting class ranked among the Top 100 in the country.

One additional key piece is a schedule that will allow coach Sytia Messer’s team to develop as the 2010-11 season unfolds. The second-year coach announced her squad’s schedule Tuesday, a slate that features 14 home games, 18 conference challenges and a variety of interesting obstacles.

Besides the Ohio Valley Conference games, Tech faces teams from the Sun Belt, Atlantic 10, Atlantic Sun, SEC, and Missouri Valley Conferences.  

“We feel like we’ve put together a competitive schedule that can help get us to the NCAA Tournament,” Messer said. “We play many of the major in-state programs, we have some outstanding non-conference opponents, and the OVC will be balanced.”

In addition to the usual 18-game conference slate of nine home, nine road games, the Golden Eagles will play non-conference contests against Alabama A&M, Lipscomb, Belmont, Tennessee Wesleyan, Middle Tennessee State, Kentucky, Drake, Central Florida, St. Louis and SIU-Edwardsville.

“This schedule will be a great opportunity to challenge our young players and help us to get to the next level,” Messer said.

The season opens at home in Eblen Center with an exhibition game against Bryan College (Nov. 4) and a visit from Alabama A&M (Nov. 15). That’s followed by road trips to Nashville to meet Lipscomb (Nov. 18) and Belmont (Nov. 21).

“Belmont has a new coach and will be a very competitive team,” Messer said. “They played a great game against us here last year, so this will be a great road challenge. We’ll need to have our team ready to play both of those games.”

A visit by Tennessee Wesleyan (Nov. 27) wraps up the first month, and December opens with a doubleheader in Eblen Center on Dec. 1 that presents Tech fans with one of the highlights of the non-conference season.

Following a men’s game at 6 p.m., the night will be capped by a visit from the women’s program’s longest-running, most intense rival, Middle Tennessee State.

“We’re excited to have a team the caliber of Middle Tennessee coming to our gym,” Messer said. “We’ve proven ourselves at home, and playing the second game of the night is a great opportunity to showcase the team for our fans.

“Coming in December, it gives our younger players a chance to get a few games under their belts,” Messer said.
 
Tech hits the road for games at Jacksonville State (Dec. 4), Kentucky (Dec. 7) and Drake (Dec. 11).

“December will be our most challenging month,” Messer said. “We play at Jacksonville State to open the conference schedule, at Kentucky and Drake, then at home against Eastern Illinois, the defending OVC regular season champion, and Southeast Missouri.

“It’s quite a strong stretch of opponents, but I’d rather face challenges early in December so that we can finish strong in February and March.”

Other non-conference foes include a road game at Central Florida in late December, a home tile with St. Louis University to kick off the New Year on January 2, and a visit to SIU Edwardsville in late February.

After the conference opener at JSU, Tech hosts Eastern Illinois (Dec. 19) followed by Southeast Missouri (Dec. 21), just before a holiday break. Shortly after Christmas, the team reconvenes and heads to Orlando to face Conference USA foe Central Florida (Dec. 29).

“Central Florida is loaded with a lot of returning starters and coach (Joi) Williams always does a great job of having her players ready,” Messer said. “She’s a former OVC coach, and she’s familiar with the conference and our program.”

On Jan. 2, Tech returns to Eblen Center to host St. Louis University, a challenger in the Atlantic 10 Conference.

“St. Louis has one of the most competitive players we faced last year in Lauren Woods, and we’re excited to have the chance to play them at home,” Messer said. “They play a similar style as us, they love to run and get the ball up-and-down the court, and it will be a real challenging game to open the New Year. Our fans have a chance to greet the New Year with us and see a great game.”

Six of the next eight games are conference games on the road, meaning the Golden Eagles will be severely tested early in 2011. The finish with five of the final eight league games at home, plus a non-conference journey to SIU-Edwardsville (Feb. 22).

“I’m excited because of where we finished in the league last year and I feel like it’s up for grabs this year,” Messer said. “It’s wide open and it should be very exciting. Everybody plays a little different style so it will be a very interesting season.”

The OVC Tournament is March 2-5 at Municipal Auditorium in Nashville with the winner earning the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, That event starts March 19-22 with first rounds games.

Season tickets to Tech Basketball are on sale through the Athletics Ticket Office in Eblen Center or by calling (931) 372-3940. Tickets may also be ordered online at TTUsports.com.