By Bob Flynn
Register Sports Writer
The Lady Colonels dropped their third-straight game, 76-64, to Tennessee State Saturday in McBrayer Arena.
The loss was costly because it dropped EKU to the No. 5 seed and cost them an opening-round bye in next week’s OVC Tournament.
The Lady Colonels trailed by as many as six point on four occasions in the first half, but battled back each time to get even.
EKU took its first lead of the contest, 35-32, on the second of back-to-back three pointers by Marie Carpenter just before the first-half buzzer sounded.
But as they have done in each of the three-consecutive home loses, the Lady Colonels failed to carry the first-half momentum into the beginning of the second half.
EKU came out flat and TSU was red hot, scoring the first eight points and 11 of the first 13 points to take a 43-37 advantage four minutes into the second half.
EKU coach Chrissy Roberts said her club’s second-half problems begin on the defensive end and she questioned her team’s toughness.
“The defense hadn’t been there since Austin Peay I don’t think. If you look at the last three games, we played solid defense in the first half, the second half we shut down,” Roberts said. “We’ve got to get tougher. We’ve got to be able to bang on the boards, then go finish. We have to be able to play on both ends of the floor. Maybe I’m asking a lot. They were able to do it, so why can’t we.”
After TSU’s early spurt, the Lady Colonels answered the call, going on a a 7-0 run of their own to retake the lead 44-43 with 14 minutes remaining.
The lead changed hands three more times over the next four minutes before the Lady Tigers took the lead for good at 51-50.
TSU stretched its lead to six, 61-55 with 4:30 left.
Five-straight free throws by Carpenter and Pilar Walker got the Lady Colonels to within one, 61-60, with 3:10 remaining.
But, TSU outscored EKU 15-3 to over the final three minutes when the Lady Colonels went ice cold shooting the ball.
Carpenter led all scorers with 23 points in her final home game.
Freshman Michaela Hunter had 17 points and five rebounds off the bench and Walker added 12 points.
Jasmine Stafford finished with five points, Shelly Harper had four points, Jasmine Henshaw had two points and six rebounds and Nicole Bowers had one point and three rebounds.
The Lady Tigers outscored EKU 38-22 in the paint and had 21 points off 15 Lady Colonels turnovers, while EKU only got 10 points off 14 TSU miscues.
Though disappointed with her team’s play over the final two weeks of the season, Roberts said every team will be starting fresh in the tournament, so there is still time to turn it around.
“We’ve got to get some toughness about us before we take off to Nashville if we want to make a good showing in this thing,” Roberts said. “It’s a new season for everybody. I know what we’re capable of and it’s frustrating when you don’t play to the top of your potential. But we’re hungry and our record is 0-0. We’ll get it figured out and we’re going to make some noise down in Nashville.”
The Lady Colonels open play in the tournament on Wednesday at 1 p.m. against Eastern Illinois.