NASHVILLE --- Despite outperforming their opponent from the free-throw line, the strong offensive effort of Ohio Valley Conference newcomer Jacksonville State (7-4, 2-0 OVC) proved too much for the Lady Tigers. Tennessee State dropped its conference opener to the Gamecocks, 89-67, on Thursday night.
Tennessee State started the third-ever meeting between the programs on a strong defensive note, holding Jacksonville State scoreless from the floor for the first four minutes of action. After regaining their footing, the Gamecocks surged, jumping to a 20-4 lead at the 11-minute mark. Senior Odessa Kelly (Nashville, Tenn.) finally broke the stalemate with a jumper, followed by a layup to move the Lady Tigers to within 12. However, it would not be enough to move Tennessee State to within striking distance.
The Lady Tigers would only be able to move as close as fifteen points once the first stanza got underway. Jacksonville State outshot Tennessee State 47.1 percent to 32.3 percent in the first half despite a strong effort by Kelly, who contributed 13 of the Lady Tigers' first half points, en route to netting a season-high 27 points on the night.
Jacksonville State capitalized on TSU's turnovers, dropping in 14 points from those errors. The Gamecocks also added 29 points from the bench to make the score, heading into the locker room, 43-24.
After the break, the Lady Tigers were still unable to break Jacksonville State's rhythm. Costly fouls sent the Gamecocks to the charity stripe nine times in the second half. However, they were only able to convert 13 of those 23 attempts as the Lady Tigers nailed 13 of 15 shots from the charity stripe. Tennessee State was also unable to shut down current Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Week Shanika Freeman, who scored 15 of her 19 total points in the second half.
The Lady Tigers were led in scoring by Kelly, who finished the night with a double-double (27 points and 12 rebounds), including a 9-of-10 clip from the charity stripe. She was followed by classmate Kisha Stewart (Memphis, Tenn.), who contributed 11 points.
The Lady Tigers return to action on Saturday, January 10 as they host Samford. Game time is set for 5 p.m.