Two teams took to Assembly Hall on Thursday night, both fighting for the opportunity to take on Indiana, the #2 overall ranked team in the NCAA Tournament. It was Tennessee Tech (22-9) and Monmouth (18-15) dueling in the NCAA Women’s Play-in Round, where the winner was entered into the field of 64, with the hope of earning the 2023 National Championship.
At the final buzzer, The Golden Eagles of Tennessee Tech spread their wings to a 79-69 victory, but the match was a well-played game by both of these 2023 conference champions.
In the first 6 minutes of play, Tennessee Tech Guard Peyton Carter exploded for 12 points, hitting all four of her four attempts from beyond the arc. The long ball would prove to be important throughout this match, however, the first quarter ended in a tie at 17.
The first half was a tale of two completely different game styles, with Monmouth working the ball movement inside and driving the lane for lay-ups, while Tennessee Tech scored 30 of their first 34 points from 3-point land, hitting only one 2-point field goal in the first 17 minutes of play.
At the mid-way point, Tennessee Tech had a 40-33 lead.
The third quarter was when Tennessee Tech opened up their lead to 10 points by finding a way to work the ball inside. They continued to shoot the three-pointer well, but the 70% first qurter efficiency would prove to not be sustainable. They were able to balance their offense well enough to throw off the defense of the Monmouth Hawks. And additionally, Monmouth’s offense struggled to move the ball as fluidly as they were able in the first half.
The Monmouth offense runs completely through their Junior Point Guard Ariana Vanderhoop. She orchestrates the ball movement extremely well, and has fantastic on-court decision making skills, but Monmouth seems to depend on her leadership a bit too much. She had some great numbers, but her teammates appear to hesitate when she doesn’t personally drive the ball past the timeline.
The Hawks could not find a way to make any ground in the 4th quarter, and the Golden Eagles would not miss much from the field or the free throw line.
TN Tech had 4 in double figures for the game Walker and Owens each with 18, Brock with 16, and Carter with 12 points. Collectively, The Golden Eagles shot 46% from the field and from 3-point land, and hit 17-19 from the free-throw line for 90%.
Monmouth shot 41% from the field, 26% from beyond the arc, and 88% from the free throw line.
Filled with emotion after the tough loss, when asked about her experience playing in Assembly Hall for the first time, Vanderhoop had this to say, “A great experience . . . something I will never forget.”
Credit to both teams for their on-court behavior and sportsmanship. This battle did not have one single complaint to a referee over a call throughout the entire game. Two very disciplined teams that kept their emotions in check on the biggest stage in college basketball.
Next up, Tennessee Tech will play #1 seed Indiana at 11:30am at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall for the opportunity to take on the winner of Miami/Oklahoma State on Monday in order to advance to the Sweet Sixteen.
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