EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP)Kiera Hill had 14 points and 10 rebounds off the bench for her first double-double of the season to lead Tennessee Tech to its 11th NCAA Tournament and first since 2000 with a 54-46 win over top-seeded Little Rock in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament championship game on Saturday.
“I’m so happy for these kids. heart of champions right there,” seventh-year head coach Kim Rosamond said. “Today I was so calm, because of them, they weren’t going to be denied. …
“We said if we can rebound and defend, everything else would take care of itself. … It was just a great team effort.”
The third-seeded Golden Eagles, who lost to the Trojans twice during the season, held the Trojans to 34% shooting, including 0 for 6 from 3-point range, and had a 37-26 rebounding advantage.
Jada Guinn added 12 points and Reghan Grimes had 10 for Tennessee Tech (22-9), which was 2-of-9 shooting in the fourth quarter but made 6 of 8 free throws. Maaliya Owens scored eight to reach 1,000 for her career. Hill, a junior college transfer, had season highs in points and rebounds.
Tia Harvey had 13 points and Jayla Brooks 12 for the Trojans (21-10), who had a 13-game winning streak snapped after going 4 of 15 in the final 10 minutes. Leading scorer and OVC Player of the Year Sali Kourouma (17.2 ppg) was held to six points in 12 minutes before fouling out with 3:15 to play. Her team was 18-0 in games she played this season.
Little Rock was trying to make the NCAA Tournament for the seventh time in its first year in the OVC, the last appearance coming in 2019 as Sun Belt Conference champion.
Tennessee Tech took a 21-15 lead at the half, holding Little Rock to 29% shooting. It was the first time in almost a month the Trojans trailed at the break.
The Golden Eagles lead by as many as 12 in the third quarter, but Jaiyah Harris-Smith hit a buzzer-beating floater from the lane and the Trojans trailed 44-35 heading into the fourth quarter.
Tennessee Tech won its 10th tourney title despite going scoreless 6:39 after taking a 46-37 lead 1 1/2 minutes into the fourth quarter. Little Rock only got within five as the Trojans went 3:40 between baskets.
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