PEORIA, Ill. --
PEORIA, Ill. – Tennessee Tech stormed out to a 20-point
lead in the first half Wednesday night, but host Bradley kept its
composure. The Braves found a lethal inside-outside scoring
combination in the second half, clamped down on defense and pulled
out a 74-71 victory over the Golden Eagles in a first round game of
the Women’s Basketball Invitational.
Tech, playing in the post-season for the 23rd time including the second straight year, had everything working in the first 18 minutes despite playing a distant road game following a 10-day layoff and a 10-hour bus ride.
But Bradley (18-15) got inside scoring from Latasha Hollingshed and some big outside scoring from Katie Yohn to scratch its way back into the game midway in the second half.
When Tech freshman post T’Keyah Williams left the game after knocking her head hard on the wooden floor while battling for a rebound, the Braves took advantage as Tech lost her defensive quickness in the paint. The 6-foot-3 Hollingshed scored 15 of her 21 points in the second half to lead the comeback surge.
Tech, meanwhile, went from a 5-for-7 performance in the first half from 3-point range to an 0-for-7 showing in the second half. The Golden Eagles, who shot 58.3 percent in the opening period, hit 40.7 percent in the second half.
Still, the Golden Eagles found enough resiliency to resist the Braves’ efforts for much of the second half. Three times Bradley tied the game and all three times the Golden Eagles answered to reclaim the lead.
In fact it appeared Tech had weathered the storm after Bradley tied things at 62-62 with 5:49 remaining as the Golden Eagles scored the next five to take a 67-62 lead with 5:07 to play.
Brooke Bisping, who didn’t play in the first half, scored and Hollingshed grabbed an offensive rebonds – the third straight on the offensive glass in the series by Bradley – and drew a foul. She made both free throws to trim Tech’s lead to 67-66 with 3:52 remaining.
With 3:18 to play, the Braves took their first lead since the opening minute when Catie O’Leary hit a driing layup for a 68-67 lead. Bisping added a layup and a jumper the BU lead was at five, 72-67, with 1:42 to go.
Tacarra Hayes hit a basket with 1:22 left to make it 72-69 and the Golden Eagles got the ball back on a missed 3-point try by Yohn, but couldn’t take advantage. A turnover, Tech’s 21st of the contest, led to two free throws by Kelsey Bud and a 74-69 lead.
Jala Harris scored a jumper with 24 seconds left, and Tech had two more chances to tie the game. Hayes grabbed a defensive rebound but missed a layup at the other end. She stole the ball with 16 seconds left but Harris’ 3-point try with three seconds left was off the mark.
Hayes, one of four seniors playing her final game as a Golden Eagle, narrowly missed her 11th double-double of the year, finishing with 18 points and nine rebounds, along with three assists, two blocked shots and a steal.
Harris added 17 points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals, and sophomore Molly Heady scored 14. Rachel Glidden, another departing senior, had nine points and three rebounds while senior Brittany Darling bowed out with four points and six boards. Williams also had four points, six rebounds and two blocked shots before her early exit.
Hollingshed led all scorers with 21 points and eight rebounds, going 8-for-11 from the field and 5-for-5 at the line. Yohn went 4-for-7 from long distance and finished with 19 points. Bradley also got double digit scoring from O’Leary with 12, along with six assists, and Bisping, who scored all 11 of her points in the second half.
Bradley’s leading scorer, Leah Kassing, was held scoreless by the Golden Eagles.
The Golden Eagles ended the season with a 17-17 overall record.
The 34 games played during the 2011-12 season is the most for a
Tech women's team since 34 in the 1980-81 season, and second
all-time behind the record 36 games in 1976-77.
The Braves (18-15) advance to the second round of the WBI tournament, and will play Sunday against either Minnesota or Charleston Southern.