By Nate Perry, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Despite a solid first quarter, Tennessee Tech women's basketball was unable to keep up with Belmont's red-hot offense Saturday night, as the Golden Eagles took their fourth Ohio Valley Conference loss, and fell inside the Eblen Center for the second time this year.
With the loss, Tech (18-7, 10-4 OVC) settles for a split in its two matchups with Belmont (20-5, 13-1 OVC) this season, and moves into a three-way tie for second place with Morehead State and UT Martin.
"First of all, credit Belmont, they played at a championship level tonight," said head coach Kim Rosamond. "They raised their bar tremendously from our first game – and we didn't – and you see the result."
"They shot the ball amazingly well from the field. We had breakdown after breakdown defensively, and they made us pay every single time. Darby Maggard is probably going to go down as one of the best players to ever play in this league, and I thought tonight she was tremendous."
Maggard scored a game-high 34 points to lead the Bruins, who clipped at 59.3 percent for the game and 45.5 percent from 3-point range, which are both season highs for an opponent in the Hoop. Ellie Harmeyer and Maddie Wright both added 19 for BU.
Tech executed well offensively in the first quarter with 20 points, but had major difficulties stopping the Bruin attack, which set the tone for a prolific night with 27 points on 10-of-15 shooting (66.7 percent).
"Offensively, we played well the first quarter," Rosamond said. "We scored 20, so we didn't have a bad offensive quarter. We had too many breakdowns defensively to give them 27."
"In the second quarter, they made an adjustment and started packing it in the paint and daring us to shoot the three, and we had to take those shots. I thought Kentoria (Alexander) did a great job (of that). She's worked very hard to improve her outside shot, and I'm really proud of her for that."
Alexander finished with 15 points to pace the Golden Eagles, all coming by way of a career-high five 3-balls. She had previously never hit more than two in a game.
"Coach (Rosamond) always gets on me about when they back off me I can't just let them play 5-on-4," said Alexander. "I have to step up and shoot the shots. I've gotten more confidence in myself from working on it in the gym."
The senior has shined while taking on more of the offensive workload lately. Over her past seven games, the Tullahoma native is averaging 13 points and 4.4 made field goals, with a 49.2-percent clip from the floor.
Tech hoisted a school-record 38 attempts from beyond the arc, eclipsing the old mark of 34 set against UT Martin in 2001.
Rosamond knew her team would have to shoot from long range to bring Belmont out of its condensed defense, but admitted that such a high number of triple-tries neglected other offensive dimensions.
"We took 60 shots tonight, and only nine of those came from our post players," she remarked. "Some of it had to do with their defense, but we relied too much on our perimeter shot."
A Tech team that entered the game getting 34.4 percent of its offense from the free throw line only got there nine times on Saturday night, which compromised another key area of production. Belmont, on the other hand, attempted 31 foul shots, and connected on 25 of them for an .806 percentage.
TTU recorded its first visit to the charity stripe with 41 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
"Two big parts of our game are obviously threes, and then getting to the free throw line," said Rosamond. "I know it was very late in the third quarter, and we had not been to the free throw line one time, and that's tough."
Akia Harris provided another bright spot for Tech, pouring in 14 points with a team-high six assists.
After missing the Southeast Missouri-UT Martin road trip with injury, the junior point guard seemed to be back to her old self against BU.
"I know Kent is glad Akia is back because she is a big, big part of our team," Rosamond said. "We missed her those two game that she was out, and I thought she competed really hard tonight."
Buckner hit three 3-pointers on her way to 11 tallies, and also record four assists to one turnover.
Brady collected 10 points, giving her 12 games in double figures this year.
"While this one hurts, and they embarrassed us a little bit and hurt our pride, they're not handing out any championship trophies tonight," said Rosamond on moving forward. "So, we have to learn from this, and we have to get back to 'the middle'. You don't win many games if you get too high or too low with the ebbs and flows of the season."
"Right now we're just really inconsistent. We know we belong. We're still figuring out how to get to the Promised Land, so to speak, but we know we belong there. That's what it's going to take to get to the level (Belmont) is at – consistency. That's just the next step in our process, but we're going to get there."
Tech will have two more home games next week, as the Golden Eagles will square off with Eastern Kentucky on Thursday, Feb. 21 at 5:30 p.m. before looking to avenge an earlier loss to Morehead State next Saturday.
Photo by Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information