By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – If all anyone saw of the Tennessee Tech women's basketball game against Morehead State was the first quarter, one might have thought the Golden Eagles had been run out of the gym Saturday night.
But despite the 23-7 deficit through the first quarter, the Tech women kept fighting, kept clawing their way back and found themselves in position to win the contest, but ultimately fell short, dropping a 73-70 decision to Morehead State.
"It wasn't the result we wanted," said Tech head coach Kim Rosamond, "but, gosh, I'm so proud of our team. I thought our team exemplified the heart, the fight and the grit these two seniors (Kentoria Alexander and Lacy Cantrell) sitting by me have. We had a horrendous first quarter and it's tough to spot a team 16 points, especially as good as Morehead is.
"Outside of the first quarter, our kids played as hard as they could have. We still didn't shoot the ball extremely well. We shot it 17 percent in the third quarter and only lost the quarter by three points. We won the second and absolutely came alive in the fourth."
With the loss, Tech drops to 19-8 overall, 11-5 in the Ohio Valley Conference, while Morehead State moves back into the tie for second place with a 20-9 record and an 11-5 record in the league.
The defeat aside, there's still a major positive.
"I really think this is a game we can build from," Rosamond said. "Morehead is a team that has given us problems. They're a very difficult matchup for us, but I thought, in the second half, we started to figure it out. We have to take it into this next week, because this week is very important, and then obviously into the OVC Tournament."
The Golden Eagles had an opportunity though. With three seconds remaining, down 71-68, Jordan Brock hit the front end of the free throws to edge closer.
As time was short, the obvious strategy was intentionally miss the second shot and go for the rebound for a last-second shot. Brock attempted to miss the shot, but the second free throw went in, making it a 71-70 contest. Nearly immediately, Brock fouled Jaleesa Avery, who hit both of her shots on the other end – a 73-70 advantage for the visitors.
Tech tried a desperate 3-point shot as time expired to tie the game, but the shot failed, allowing Morehead State to complete the regular-season sweep against the Golden Eagles.
Mckenzie Calvert led Morehead with 23 points, while Miranda Crockett added 21 points and 10 rebounds.
But the first quarter was disastrous for the Golden Eagles as they were 3-for-15 from the floor, a 20-percent clip. Tech turned the ball over seven times in the first 10 minutes and Morehead State blocked five shots. Crockett was also piling up the stats early, collecting 10 points, six rebounds, an assist, a block and two steals in the first quarter alone.
It almost started the same way in the third quarter as Tech made one of its first 10 shots. The Golden Eagles finished 3-for-18 from the floor in the quarter, but used the charity stripe to go 9-for-11 as Tech was outscored 18-15 in the quarter.
Morehead State ended the game with 20 offensive rebounds out of its tally of 51, while also outscoring Tech 17-5 in second-chance points and also 40-24 in the paint.
"We gave them too many offensive boards," Rosamond said. "There's no question about that. At the half, they had 12 offensive boards. The stat sheet said they had 12 points off those boards, but it felt like a whole lot more. The first half, it was offensive board and turnovers – we had nine turnovers at halftime – that led to a lot of their transition points. We cleaned that up in the second half. We only had three turnovers in the second half. While we didn't light it up in the third, we didn't let that affect us on the defensive end. We were getting stops, but when you're only shooting 17 percent in the third, you're not going to score a lot of points."
Tech trailed by 23 with 3:28 remaining in the third, but the fourth quarter belonged to the Golden Eagles. Tech outscored Morehead State 31-16 in the final 10 minutes to make it a contest.
"I just think our kids believed they could win," Rosamond said. "We finally started to get stops and finally started to hit shots on the offensive end. We shot 64 percent and actually started making some 3s. We were 4-for-8 from three in the fourth quarter. Up unto that point, we were 2-for-13. We're a team that likes to shoot the three and likes to get to the free-throw line. We started doing both of those things.
"Morehead is not a team that you're going to hold down in the 50s. You have to score. You're not going to hold them to that and beat them. We started to get some offensive production and our defense fed off that and we started to cut the lead. They started to hold the ball to run some time off the clock and then we started getting stops. We came down and started executing and converting quickly and we were able to chop that lead down. Our kids just kept fighting."
Following the game, the Golden Eagles honored its seniors in Alexander, Cantrell, Brittany Cooper and managers Darrius Berry and Reygan Lamb.
"I'll try not to get choked up, but they know I coach passionately and that carries of the floor," Rosamond said. "I coach them hard, but I love them hard. I'm not going to get choked up because this isn't it. Obviously Senior Night feels very different this year than it did last year. It was really cool that we had both of our seniors from last year – Yaktavia Hickson and Asia Harper -- in the locker room with us tonight. That just speaks to what we're building here and Shug and Asia helped us start to build. These guys have helped us elevate that to another level.
"You can have any coaching staff you want, but if the players aren't bought in to what that coaching staff is doing, it's not going to work. These guys have bought in fully. One of the things we talked about going into this year was that we had a leadership gap. Our leaders graduated, especially Shug. Who was going to step up and lead? These guys have just grown into tremendous leaders, and it's because they do things the right way.
Rosamond continued, "They don't expect to be handed anything. They've worked for everything they've gotten and they love their teammates. Everything that our culture is about – team first, accountability, positive attitudes, respect, relentless effort, competing in all you do – they're the poster children for that. So while I am disappointed that we couldn't get the win for them tonight, I am so thankful that this isn't the end of the road with these guys, because I want to coach them as long as I can. We don't want this ride to end, this journey to end. We want to send them out doing some things that we haven't done here in a long time. I think this team is very capable of that."
The Golden Eagles return to action on Thursday as they travel to SIUE. The game from the Vadalabene Center is scheduled for a 5:30 p.m. start.