By Nate Perry, TTU Sports Information
CHARLESTON, S.C. – In a game that played out a lot like a boxing match, the Tennessee Tech women's basketball team sparred with Old Dominion through all four quarters in Sunday's portion of the Charleston Southern Buccaneer Classic, but came up just short to the Monarchs by a score of 80-73.
"I thought we got better today," said head coach Kim Rosamond. "Even though we didn't get the result that we wanted, that was a very good basketball team that we played, and we battled until the very end. I thought our kids played hard the whole way, and just came up a little short."
"I saw so much growth in our team over the last two days. To be able to go on the road and beat the home team by double digits on their floor was a big positive. Then today, to persevere the way we did, and fight ODU tooth and nail, was extremely encouraging moving forward.
Anacia Wilkinson provided the major storyline for Tech, scoring a career-high 18 points on 6-of-11 shooting. The redshirt junior did much of her offensive damage early on, as she scored eight of her team's 14 points in the first quarter and added seven more in the second to keep the Golden Eagles in the game in the first half.
Wilkinson also ripped down five rebounds in the game, but focused largely on her defensive contributions in the second half, with three of her four blocked shots coming after halftime. The Houston, Texas native entered the CSU tournament tied for 25th nationally in blocks, and will presumably move up on that list with her shot-swatting performance on Sunday.
"It was so exciting to see Naci go out and do that," said Rosamond. "She's had to battle through so much adversity, and you can just see her confidence continuing to grow, game by game.
"What's really neat about our team right now is that every game we're seeing people step up with Mackenzie (Coleman) being out. That's a sign of a really good basketball team, and I think it's something that is only going to make our team stronger when we do get Mac back out on the court with us.
While the field-goal percentage was lower than she would have liked (34.5 percent for the game), Rosamond was happy with the way her team was able to utilize its dribble-drive offense and create opportunities in the painted area.
"Creating offense wasn't our issue," Rosamond said. "We generated plenty of opportunities, it was just one of those days where the ball didn't go in the hole for us. I thought we executed well down the stretch, we just didn't finish certain plays.
Many of those drives also resulted in fouls drawn against ODU, as Tech held a 27-17 advantage in the fouls department before purposely sending the Monarchs to the line several times late in the game to stop the clock.
For the second time on the weekend, Tech made the most of its numerous opportunities at the charity stripe, supplementing its offense with an excellent team percentage. After connecting on just one of their first six attempts in the first quarter, the Golden Eagles drained 27 of 30 through the final three periods for a mark of 77.8 percent (28-36).
"That's been a huge improvement," said Rosamond of the team's free throw prowess. "We shot 78 percent from the free throw line today – 14-of-14 in the second quarter, 8-of-8 in the third – but what I didn't like was that we were 5-of-8 in the fourth quarter, and three of those were crucial. We have to make sure that we're consistently knocking those down in the fourth quarter, but that's just another area where we can grow and get better."
Kesha Brady had a large impact on that free throw percentage, as she went a perfect 8-fot-8 from the line on her way to a 15-point outing, her fourth game this season with at least 14.
Akia Harris and Kentoria Alexander also scored in double figures for Tech, which featured four such scorers in both games at the Buccaneer Classic. Harris collected 12 points, and added five rebounds, two assists and one steal, while Alexander went for 10 points, a team-high four assists, four rebounds and one steal.
Brock's performance against ODU, coupled with her 19-point explosion on Saturday against Charleston Southern, earned her a spot on the Buccaneer Classic All-Tournament team.
While the loss certainly wasn't the desired outcome, this marks two consecutive instances that Rosamond has been pleased with her team's determination and execution against big-time opponents away from home.
"What I love about this team is that they expect to win these types of games, which is such a difference from where we were at this time last year," said Rosamond. "Our players were disappointed because they though we were truly good enough to win this basketball game. That's growth. Playing a team like Old Dominion makes you better, and I believe we will be better as we continue to grow."
The positives taken from these road/neutral-site performances could pay dividends as early as next week, when Tech visits high-level opponents Wichita State on Sunday (Dec. 2) and Arkansas the following Tuesday (Dec. 4).
Photo by Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information