TSU Lady Tigers upset UT Martin 64-60 in OT for OVC title
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Tennessee State redshirt senior Chelsea Hudson couldn't stop the tears, and her coach couldn't silence the messages pinging his cellphone every few seconds.
Nobody minded during a celebration 20 years in the making.
Brianna Lawrence scored five of her 22 points in overtime, and the Tennessee State Lady Tigers beat top-seeded UT Martin 64-60 Saturday for their first Ohio Valley Conference tournament title and automatic NCAA Tournament berth since 1995.
''We were just kind of battling for people to recognize our name,'' coach Larry Joe Inman said.
''So I'm extremely proud of these kids. Now everybody in America will know about Tennessee State University and what our kids have done and where they are. They're one of the top 64 teams in the country right now and that says it all. ... Unbelievable. Right here in Nashville, Tennessee!''
The Lady Tigers (18-12) became the first to earn an NCAA tournament berth this season. This is only the third in the program's history, and just their second winning record since their last NCAA trip in 1995.
Hudson just kept wiping her eyes and recalled how angry she was sitting out her first season as a medical redshirt, when the team went 9-21.
''Being seasoned, I understand now why I sat out,'' said Hudson who had eight points and nine rebounds. ''I understand why, the pain and the tears and the breakdowns and the cries and the fusses, the fights, I understand it now because this is what it's about. It's not about me. I didn't sit out for Chelsea. I sat out for Tennessee State.''
The Lady Tigers did it in thrilling fashion with a school-record 10th straight win as they snapped UT Martin's 18-game winning streak.
The Skyhawks (22-10) were trying to become only the second OVC program to win five straight tournament titles. But they led only once in overtime at 57-55. Rachel Allen answered with a 3 followed by Lawrence's own 3 for the biggest lead for either team since midway through the second half.
''I feel sorry for our kids,'' UT Martin coach Kevin McMillan said. ''They played hard, but give Tennessee State credit. They did what they needed to do to win.''
Katie Schubert hit a 3 pointer with 18.4 seconds left pulling the Skyhawks within 61-60, but they didn't score again. I'mani Davis hit two free throws and Hudson hit another in the final 11.8 seconds to seal the win for Tennessee State, starting the celebration at midcourt.
Allen finished with 13 points. The Lady Tigers outscored UT Martin 11-7 in overtime.
Ashia Jones scored a game-high 23 points, but the UT Martin sophomore and OVC player of the year didn't score at all in overtime. Karisma Tyson added 10 points.
Tennessee State led 28-26 at halftime after leading by as much as 12, and it was just a prelude as the teams swapped the lead six times with six ties after halftime. UT Martin used a 14-2 run to take a 43-37 lead midway through the second half. The Skyhawks never led by more than six, and Tennessee State reeled them back in setting up the tight finish.
Jones had the ball in her hand with the shot clock winding down late in regulation when Hudson tipped it away to Allen for the steal with 30 seconds left. TSU couldn't get a shot off before Davis turned it over, and the Skyhawks couldn't get a shot off before the buzzer tied at 53.
Tennessee State: The last time the Lady Tigers went to the NCAA tournament, current athletic director Teresa Phillips was their coach. They had seven 20-loss seasons since 1995. ... Inman is in the OVC Hall of Fame and won a combined six OVC tournament titles with Eastern Kentucky and Middle Tennessee. He took over the Lady Tigers in April 2012.
UT Martin: The Skyhawks made more free throws in the second half (14 of 18) than Tennessee State attempted during regulation (6 of 10). But they didn't get to the line in overtime. ... The Skyhawks' last loss in this tournament was March 5, 2010.