OVC Championship Preview
Published: Saturday, March 9, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 10:03
For the third consecutive season the Skyhawks will take on the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles in the Ohio Valley Conference championship.
The last two times these teams met in the championship game the Skyhawks came out on top. More recently, the Skyhawks downed the Golden Eagles 81-63 on their own turf.
"I don't think we competed very hard last time," said Tennessee Tech head coach Jim Davis. "I don't know if we were intimated by them or what. That was unlike any performance that our young ladies gave all year long...by and large that wasn't our team."
TTU will have to be on top of their game to derail the Skyhawk's seven-game winning-streak that started back in mid-February. After the Golden Eagles took down Belmont to advance to the championship game coach Davis had nothing but good words about UTM head coach Kevin McMillan.
"I've got the utmost respect for coach McMillan and his staff. They have got a well coached basketball team. They don't beat themselves."
The biggest issue TTU had last time they faced the Skyhawks was guarding Heather Butler and Jasmine Newsome. When the two teams met in Cookeville they record-setting guards combined for 35 points. However, with the way the two have been playing in the tournament the Golden Eagles may have their hands full. Newsome set a tournament record with her 41 points against Eastern Kentucky, which is a tournament game-high. She added another 23 points against Eastern Illinois which would give her 74 over a two game stretch, most in OVC tournament history.
"They told me before I got here they didn't have anyone that could guard them [Newsome and Butler]," said coach Davis. "I think we have some girls that are going to guard them better. I still don't know if we can guard them or not, but we're going to give it our best effort."
Newsome and Butler aren't the only Skyhawks that TTU will have to look out for. Senior forward Rickiesha Bryant has been a force under the goal all season. Her 83 blocks this year set a new single-season record for the Skyhawks and it's safe assume that she will have her hands in the faces of the Golden Eagles all game.
Personal records are nice, but the reason the teams play the games are to get to the tournament and then get to the championship game.
"I guess we hoped we hoped we could get to three straight OVC championships," said coach McMillan. "You know, it's more about the players and what they want to do...Of course all the coaches want to be there and all the players want to be there. It comes down to the will of your kids. You got to recruit kids that are the kind of people that put in the work from March through whenever when you lose a basketball game until the next year to give yourselves a chance."
When you look at both of these teams it's clear that they both have players that have not only the will, but the talent to win the OVC tournament and advance to the NCAA tournament.
"We ask our players all the time, 'do we have what it takes to be champions?' Each letter stands for something meaningful to us," said coach Davis. "The C stands for competitiveness and we have to come out here tomorrow and be the most competitive we've been all year long."
One thing that is or certain is that the game will be, as coach Davis said, competitive. When you match one of the OVC's top offenses in UTM and one of the league's top defenses in TTU you are sure to get a game full of excitement.
Tipoff is set for 1:30 p.m. Saturday, March 9. To keep up with the game, follow The Pacer on Facebook and Twitter, @ThePacer