By Layne Weitzel, TTU Sports Information
LEXINGTON, Ky. – One of Tennessee Tech's toughest stretches of the season came to an end on Sunday afternoon in Lexington, Kentucky.
Tech fell to No. 20/22 Kentucky (7-1) by a score of 82-54 in a game that turned out to be a tale of two halves. The Golden Eagles entered the locker room down 49-24 and being out-rebounded 24-7. After Tech's breakdown in the fourth quarter of the Wright State game on Friday night and the coaching staff's urging afterward to finish out a game, Tech rallied at halftime. The Golden Eagles greatly improved their team statistics in the second half, scoring 30 points to Kentucky's 33 and totaling 16 rebounds to Kentucky's 22. Tech turned the ball over just 16 times the entire game, equaling its season-low total from the season opener against Tennessee Wesleyan.
MacKenzie Coleman, starting her third-straight game and playing in her home state, surpassed her career-high of 10 points in the second quarter. Coleman ended up with 15 points for the second-best mark on the team before fouling out in the fourth quarter.
After going scoreless in the first half, Yaktavia "Shug" Hickson came alive with a season-high of 16 points in the second half. Hickson is just 15 points away from reaching 1,000 points scored in her four-year Tech career.
Kesha Brady was the third double-figure scorer for the Golden Eagles, totaling 10 points and coming just a rebound away from a double-double in a team-high 36 minutes.
Jordan Brock, another Kentucky native on Tech's roster, scored seven of the team's 10 bench points with the help of two 3-pointers.
"We're a young basketball team that is growing, but I'm also very encouraged with the growth that our kids showed in the second half," said head coach Kim Rosamond. "The second quarter was very, very tough for us. We had a lot of kids in foul trouble and had to play a lot of different combinations that we don't normally play. We struggled to get stops and we struggled to score the basketball, but I was proud of our kids' fight in the second half."
Although the last six contests' final scores haven't been to Tech's liking, the Golden Eagles have gutted their way through a tough stretch of non-conference games that began in mid-November, which will hopefully reap benefits moving forward in the season. After playing on the road for the past five of six games (at Middle Tennessee, at East Tennessee State, at Georgia, at Wright State and at Kentucky), Tech now has the luxury of sleeping in its own beds for the rest of the month, including for the start of the Ohio Valley Conference schedule.
"The schedule was what it was. Some of it we inherited, some of it we added to it," said Rosamond. "It wasn't ideal being on the road this much early, but I can tell you, our kids have been forced to grow up from it. We'll take it and learn from it.
"We've played very, very high-level competition, so a lot of things that we needed to work on have been exposed. Had we not played that schedule, we might not have found out before Dec. 28 what we needed to work on… When I look at the future and then I also look at the growth – not the results, necessarily –that these kids have had the last five games, and I know what is ahead of them, I'm very encouraged."