Golden Eagles edged by one in final minute by league-leading Panthers

Golden Eagles edged by one in final minute by league-leading Panthers

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Ta’Kenya Nixon scored the final four points to lift Eastern Illinois to a one-point lead and Tennessee Tech threw away an inbounds pass under the basket with 3.3 seconds left as the Panthers moved back into first place in the Ohio Valley Conference with a 52-51 victory in Eblen Center Monday night.

The Panthers (21-5/12-1 OVC) had a 13-game winning streak snapped on Saturday when they suffered a 94-86 overtime loss at UT Martin, putting them into a temporary tie for first with the Skyhawks. EIU moved back on top by one-half game Monday when UTM was idle.

Tech (13-15/9-5 OVC) slipped one spot in the standings to fourth place with the loss, with two home OVC games remaining before the conference tournament.

Nixon finished with 15 points and eight rebounds, the lone Panther to score in double figures. Sydney Mitchell added eight points and 10 rebounds, while both Chantelle Pressley and Mariah King also scored eight. Point guard Kelsey Wyss had six points and five assists.

Jala Harris was Tech’s top scorer with 16 points. Tacarra Hayes was limited to four points but chipped in with nine rebounds and seven assists. Rachel Glidden scored eight, Molly Heady had six points and eight rebounds and T’Keyah Williams added seven points and five boards.

Tech dominated play throughout most of the second half, taking a five-point halftime lead up to as many as 10 points with 13:50 remaining. The Golden Eagles held the lead all the way through to the final minute, but could never escape to a comfortable lead down the stretch.

The Panthers kept it close by knocking down three consecutive 3-pointers in the final six minutes, getting bombs from Pressley, Kaitlyn Payne and Wyss. All of those offset baskets by the Golden Eagles, and left Tech up by three, 49-46, following a free throw by Brittany Darling with 2:43 remaining.

King and Harris traded baskets and tech was up 51-48 with 1:59 left before Nixon went to work. Her first was a jumper with 1:27 to play to cut it to one point, then she made a layup after the Golden Eagles had missed a layup at the other end. The last one came with 56 seconds left and gave the Golden Eagles plenty of time to recover.

Tech was charged with an offensive foul, turning the ball over to the Panthers, but Heady stopped Nixon on a baseline drive to get the ball back. The Golden Eagles looked to Harris but her 16-footer was off the rim, the ball was grabbed underneath and a scramble ensued, resulting in a tie-up.

Possession arrow Tech, so the Golden Eagles had one final chance with 3.3 seconds left, but the play never developed and the inbounds pass went to the Panthers.

The Golden Eagles closed the first half on a 14-5 run, erasing a four-point Panther lead to head to the break with a five-point advantage, the largest margin of the first half.

EIU had established a four-point lead at 18-14 with 8:10 remaining with a brief 6-0 run that included a 3-pointer by Sabina Oroszova and a driving layup by Mitchell.

Harris scored the next four for Tech to tie the game at 18-18, the fourth time in the half that the score was knotted. The teams exchanged the next four baskets before Rachel Glidden scored a layup with 2:11 left for a 24-23 TTU lead. Harris and Williams each added jumpers in the final minute for the 28-23 halftime difference.

The Golden Eagles continue their three-game, season-ending homestand Saturday when they host Eastern Kentucky at 7 p.m. It’s Think Pink Night and fans are encouraged to wear pink to the game to help increase awareness in breast cancer screening, research and treatment. Fans wearing pink to the game can purchase their game ticket for just one dollar each.

For additional information, please visit the Athletics Ticket Office in Eblen Center or call (931) 372-3940.