JACKSONVILLE, Ala. -- Jim Davis is no stranger to the Ohio Valley Conference. It was 30 years ago that he coached Middle Tennessee to the OVC Tournament Championship game, where they lost to none other than Tennessee Tech. But Saturday he earned his first conference victory at the helm of the Golden Eagles. Tech gave a strong performance to down Jacksonville State 73-51 in the opening game of the OVC.
Four different players dipped into double-digits for the Golden Eagles. Senior Jala Harris led the Golden Eagles with 16 points, four assists and four rebounds. Molly Heady had 13 points and six rebounds, joining Lashay Davis for a team high six boards. Davis had 12 points, all in the first half as she went 4-6 from three-point land. Rounding out the high scorers was Diamond Henderson who put up 11 points, her first double-digit performance since the trip to New York.
Entering the Pete Mathews Coliseum, the Golden Eagles knew their opponent was winless and expected the Gamecocks to come out swinging, and they did. The Gamecocks opened the contest with a 6-0 run, but that was the last lead Jacksonville State would hold. The Golden Eagles went on their own 11-0 run thanks to a string of three point shots within one minute by Kellie Cook and back-to-back tres by Davis.
The Gamecocks hung around, coming within one point half-way through the period, but another three by Davis put the nail in the coffin. The Golden Eagles never let Jacksonville State within four the rest of the half. As the end of the half grew closer and the Gamecocks appeared to shift momentum in their favor, Harris found Henderson wide open on the wing, and she drained a three-pointer as time expired.
The pace of the game was quicker than recent games due to the play of Harris.
"Harris set the tone and intensity," said Jim Davis. "She's got to be our leader out there, and we're very pleased with her performance today. She just played outstanding. Jala had just one turnover in 25 minutes which is the type of play we need out of her every game."
The Golden Eagles defense allowed only three offenseive rebounds in the first half, and forced 12 Gamecocks turnovers, but the second half was when Tech really put on a show.
"Our defense really set the tone in the 2nd half," said Davis. "and I was really pleased with the way we defended in the last part of the game."
The Golden Eagles held Jacksonville State scoreless for the first four minutes of the second half, when Jacksonville State finally scored a free throw, but the Gamecocks didn't score their first basket until 12:57 left in the game. Tech extended their lead to 21 points thanks to back-to-back threes by Harris.
Thanks to Tech's balanced and aggressive attack, every player on Tech's bench entered the game. Kanaja Murray scored her first points as a Golden Eagle, going 2-2 from the charity stripe.
"All the girls got an opportunity to come in today which is something as coaches we love to do," mentioned Davis. "They work very hard in the practice gym, making our first 7 or 8 players better every day. It's nice to reward them with some real action."
The Golden Eagles end their six game road trip and 2012 at Memphis. Tip off is slated for 12:00 p.m. CT and the Golden Eagles are looking to come back to OVC action on a three-game winning streak.