By Nate Perry, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Three-pointers rained from all over the floor on Saturday night as Tennessee Tech prevailed over Eastern Illinois, 99-88, in a 40-minute shootout in the Hooper Eblen Center. Jordan Brock had a huge hand in the victory with a career-high 33 points, and TTU moved to 4-0 in Ohio Valley Conference play, retaining its title as the league's only unbeaten.
The victory improves Tech's overall record to 12-3 and its home ledger to 7-0, and keeps its seven-game winning streak intact.
"I'm just so proud of our team," said head coach Kim Rosamond. "Obviously, a ton of offense. Ninety-nine points, and we needed all 99 of them to beat an Eastern Illinois team that played extremely hard. They deserve a lot of credit because we couldn't guard them. As a team that prides itself on defense, this was a hard pill to swallow, but you have to credit (EIU)."
"Jordan Brock had a really special night, but it wasn't all her. When you look at 25 assists on 33 baskets, this was a total team effort. We had a lot of kids step up and make plays when we needed them."
The opening moments of the game signaled that it might be a special night for Brock, as she buried three of her first four triple tries, and scored her team's first 10 points, all in the first three and a half minutes of action. She would finish with a career-high eight trifectas in the game, which ties Mitzi Rice and Dana Bilyeu for the fourth-best long-range display in Tech history.
The Harlan, Ky. sniper's 33 tallies becomes the highest point total by any player in the OVC this season, and moves her scoring average to 14.2 per game, which now sits comfortably within the conference's top 10.
"There were times where I caught myself on the sideline in awe of some of the plays she made tonight," Rosamond said. "She's as good a shooter as you're going to see in college basketball. She got in rhythm, and our entire team knew that when she's feeling it like that, we need to get her the basketball."
Brock wasn't the only one on target from deep, as the Golden Eagles would connect on 13 of their 24 attempts in the game for an exceptional 54.2-percent clip. Abby Buckner hit three of them on her way to 11 points, while Megan Clark and Akia Harris each went 1-for-1.
EIU's Carmen Tellez nearly went step-for-step with Brock, sinking 7-of-10 from behind the arc to lead the Panthers with 26 points.
The 3-point efforts were part of an excellent overall shooting night for TTU, which went 20-of-33 from inside the arc for a field goal percentage of .600, the team's best this year.
The sweet stroke also applied to the free-throw line, as Tech went 20-of-24 as a team (83.3%). High marks from the charity stripe have been a calling card all season for Rosamond's club, which owns the OVC's second-highest team percentage (75.1%).
Anacia Wilkinson had another terrific game off the bench, as she poured in 18 points to tie a career high. EIU had no answer whatsoever for the 6-foot-2 forward from Houston, who drained nine of her 10 attempts, and ripped down nine rebounds to lead the Golden Eagles for the second straight contest.
Thanks to seven boards from Kentoria Alexander and five from Buckner, Tech won the rebounding battle for the sixth time in the last seven games, and finished plus-10 (34-24), its best margin on the glass since the season-opener against Cumberland.
Harris and Alexander were the key cogs in the facilitation of Tech's high-powered offense, as Harris dished out a season-high nine helpers, while Alexander was right behind with eight. Together, the guard tandem was responsible for 17 of Tech's season-best 25 assists.
Rosamond was very proud of the way her team shared the ball.
"Our kids are so unselfish," she said. "They don't care who scores, they just want to win. They're starting to understand their roles, they're starting to understand their strengths individually and as a team, and I think we're doing a really nice job of playing to those strengths."
In addition to spreading the wealth, Harris and Alexander both made solid contributions in the scoring category, going for nine points and seven points, respectively.
Tech's shooting barrage had EIU down by as many as 19 points midway through the second quarter, but the Panthers fought back to make it a 13-point game at the half.
Eastern Illinois followed up with a strong third quarter in which it shot 63.2 percent (12-19), and shrunk the deficit to seven, 76-69, heading into the final 10 minutes.
However, TTU would hold EIU to 35.3 percent, and got eight points from Wilkinson in the final quarter, which set the victory in stone for the home team.
While the excitement around her group and its potential continues to grow, Rosamond knows the bulk of the work still remains, and there will be no deviation from the preparation procedures that have gotten them this far.
"One game at a time," she said. "We're not talking about our record. It's January 12, and there's so much basketball to be played. What the standings look like right now, and what they will look like on February 12 will be different. There's going to be a lot of shake-up. All we can control is our preparation, our focus, and our effort."
The Golden Eagles' will finish their three-game homestand with a rare Wednesday night matchup against Tennessee State, which will tip at 6 p.m. TTU will have its first opportunity to record a season-sweep of a league opponent after beating the Tigers 69-59 in Nashville back on Jan. 3.
Photo by Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information