By Rob Schabert, Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – While it still goes as a notch in the loss column, Tennessee Tech fought to the final second Saturday night before accepting a 78-76 loss to Memphis in two overtimes in Eblen Center.
Memphis got the winning points with 1.3 seconds left in the second overtime on a layup by Mooriah Rowser after Tech had made an improbable comeback from a four-point deficit in the final minute.
The Golden Eagles had one final chance, getting the ball at the other end of the floor with 0.9 seconds left, and a long pass found freshman Shunice Herron, whose off-balance, desperation try hit the side of the backboard as the buzzer sounded.
The victory by the visitors overshadowed a couple of tremendous efforts by Golden Eagle players. Junior Diamond Henderson led Tech with 25 points, while junior Candace Parson posted career-highs of 14 points and 14 rebounds.Senior Molly Heady also scored 14 points, while junior T'Keyah Williams added seven points and 11 rebounds.
Tech held a 56-37 advantage in rebounds, including 28 offensive boards, and had a 32-5 edge in second-chance points.
Memphis was led by Ariel Hearn and Asianna Fuqua-Bey with 21 points each. Fuqua-Bey added eight rebounds and four assists, while Hearn had three assists and four steals. Rowser's final bucket also pushed her into double figures with 10.
Tech held the lead for the first 15 minutes of the first half, going up by as many as seven points a couple of times including a 21-14 edge with 9:45 remaining. The lead came as Henderson and Parson provided a solid inside-outside punch.
But Henderson's second foul sent her to the bench and the Golden Eagles didn't play at the same level.
A 7-0 run by the Tigers tied the contest for the third time in the half, and a pair of free throws with 5:10 to play by Breigha Wilder-Cochran gave Memphis its first lead of the night. The teams traded leads down the stretch before the Tigers carried a one-point advantage, 33-32, into halftime.
Tech also led for most of the second half, before a layup from Hearn with 4:21 remaining put the Tigers on top by four, 59-55. Henderson hit a basket and followed a steal by Heady with one free throw to make it a one-point game, 59-58, with 3:27 left.
Again the Tigers were up four before Henderson knocked down two free throws with 1:10 left, then drove into the lane and hit a leaning jumper with 16 seconds to play to send the game to overtime.
Hearn swished a 3-poointer with 37 seconds to go in the first overtime to lift Memphis to a 69-68 lead, but Herron hit one free throw with 28 second left to force the second extra period.
Memphis went up by six points in the second overtime, 75-69, before Tech staged another comeback beginning with a layup by Henderson. She stole the ball with 37 seconds left and drew a foul, hitting one free throw to make it 75-72, and grabbed the rebound on the missed second try. That led to a foul by Memphis and Kayla Brewer hit two free throws to trim the difference to 75-74.
Rowser made one free throw at the other end with 20 seconds left, but missed the second and Brewer snared the rebound.
Once again, Henderson took control and scored a layup with eight seconds left to tie the contest.
But Memphis raced down the floor and got the ball to Rowser for her deciding layup with 1.3 seconds left. She was fouled, but missed the free throw and Brewer grabbed another rebounds as Tech called timeout with 0.9 seconds left.
The Golden Eagles are right back in action Monday night when they host Florida International at 7 p.m. in Eblen Center.