By Bob Flynn
Register Sports Writer
The Lady Colonels overcame a foul-plagued first half to storm back for a 79-75 come-from-behind win over Tennessee State Thursday in the quarterfinals of the OVC Tournament.
Senior Marie Carpenter scored 22 of her game-high 24 points in the second half to propel the Lady Colonels past the Lady Tigers.
But if not for the play of the Lady Colonels’ bench for the second consecutive game, EKU never would have been in position to make its comeback.
Carpenter only played nine minutes in the first half due to foul trouble, joining five other Lady Colonels who picked up two fouls in an ugly first half and had to sit for extended periods of time.
But reserves Amadi Brooks, Jasmine Henshaw, Michaela Hunter and Mariah Massengil not only kept the Lady Colonels in it, they were able to slice a 12-point TSU lead down to only seven at the half.
“The bench came through big time. Everybody has something to bring to the table and I’m just so proud of everybody and their effort and what they are giving this team right now,” EKU coach Chrissy Roberts said.
Massengil came on in relief of Carpenter and did an admirable job of running the offense and stepped up and hit a big basket to help stem a 14-2 TSU first-half run.
Henshaw and Brooks battled the big, strong front line of the Tigers on the boards and on defense.
And on offense, Brooks, who is just returning from an injury, scored six consecutive points inside the final three minutes of the half after TSU had taken a 12-point lead moments earlier.
Their efforts set the stage for Carpenter in the second half.
After scoring only two points in the first half, Carpenter scored EKU’s first six points of the second half over a span of 1:10 to get the Lady Colonels off and running.
That began a 12-4 EKU run that ended on a putback basket by Miranda Maples and two free throws by Shelly Harper that put EKU on top 44-43.
After TSU hit consecutive three pointers to regain a 50-46 lead, Maples and Harper began a 10-0 run to put the Lady Colonels up 56-50 with 12 minutes remaining.
But TSU refused to go away and promptly responded with a run of its own, outscoring the Lady Colonels 10-2 to reclaim a 60-58 lead.
From there the lead changed hands eight more times in less than six minutes, with Carpenter doing most of the damage, scoring 11 of the Lady Colonels’ final 19 points.
Roberts said the time on the bench really fired her senior leader up.
“She came off that bench on fire. Setting over there a while made her miss it, think about some things ... and she came back ready to make a statement,” she said.
Carpenter said she had a lot of time to think sitting for so long.
“A lot of things were going through my head. I was trying to replay the two fouls, I was just feeding into their physicality. I knew the second half I had to not let their physicality get into my head and I had to come out strong and help my teammates,” Carpenter said. “I just had to settle down and take what the defense was giving me and that’s what I did.”
TSU coach Larry Joe Inman praised Carpenter, but gave a lot of credit to the EKU bench for the victory.
“Carpenter is a great player. She did what she is supposed to do. She got some better looks in the second half, maybe she was rested, but she really took over for them in the second half,” Inman said. “From the first time we played them they have gotten better. They are a lot more balanced now. They had a lot of people contribute in this game when they got in foul trouble that they didn’t earlier in the year. Their bench played very well today.”
Harper finished with 14 points and six rebounds, while Hunter had 10 points off the bench before leaving with an injury late in the game.
Maples had nine points and nine rebounds, while Pilar Walker had seven points, four rebounds and six assists, Brooks finished with six points, Stafford added five points and four rebounds, Massengil had two points and Cierra Drake had one point, two rebounds and one blocked shot.
The Lady Colonels now take on the top seed in the tournament, UT-Martin, at 1 p.m. today for a chance to advance to the championship game on Saturday.