Charleston, Ill. --- The Tennessee State University women's basketball team fought hard but came up short in a, 79-67, loss to Eastern Illinois Saturday afternoon in Lantz Arena.
As the eighth seed, TSU (10-17, 7-11 OVC) will turn right around and face EIU (21-9, 16-2 OVC) in the opening round of the OVC tournament on Tuesday, March 2.
Senior Nikki Rumph posted a season-best 20 points on 8-of-16
shooting, including 4-of-6 from three point range. She also recorded five steals in the contest.
Oby Okafor just missed a double-double with 15 points and nine boards while
Jasmin Shuler added 13. LaDona Pierce dished out a game-high nine assists and in doing so became TSU's All-Time career assists leader with 503.
Eastern Illinois was led in scoring by TaKenya Nixon with 19 points while Dominique Sims scored 13 and Sydney Mitchell notched 12.
Meredith Stafford hit two jumpers to help TSU capture an early 5-2 lead before EIU used a three-pointer to tie the game. Over the next several minutes the teams went point for point.
The Panthers, however, outscored the Lady Tigers 9-3 in the final two minutes of the half to carry a 33-26 lead into the break.
In the second half, a steal and break-away lay-up coupled with a three-pointer by Nikki Rumph made the score 35-32 in favor of the Panthers.
EIU increased its lead back up to 41-35 before another TSU rally, capped by a jumper from Chelsea Cromartie, brought the Lady Tigers to within one, 43-42.
A three pointer by EIU at the 10-minute mark put the Panthers back on top 57-46 but TSU once again rallied to within five with 8:20 remaining. The Lady Tigers continued to fight but could never get over the hump. Every time TSU managed to cut the deficit down to single digits, EIU would build it back up.
The Panthers were able to keep the Lady Tigers at bay and claim the 79-67 win.
Tennessee State shot 36.9 percent (24-of-65) from the field including 36.4 percent (8-of-22) from three-point range. TSU only managed to knock down 57.9 percent of its free-throws.
Tuesday's tournament game is slated to begin at either 5:30 or 7 p.m. in Lantz Arena.