Shuler struggles, Tennessee State women eliminated in OVC tournament opener

Wednesday, February 29, 2012 at 11:13pm

Last year, Municipal Auditorium was the site of Jasmin Shuler’s coming out party.

On Wednesday, the 50-year-old arena wasn’t as kind.

The Tennessee State junior was ice cold, missing her first 10 shots and going 2-of-24 from the field in a season-ending 70-55 loss to No. 6 seed Eastern Kentucky in the opening round of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament on Wednesday.

A year ago, in another opening-round loss, Shuler came off the bench to score a career-high 21 points and a personal-best seven 3-pointers — one shy of the tournament record.

Against EKU, the Tigers’ leading scorer was just 1-of-11 from 3-point range. Shuler, who still finished with a team-high 13 points thanks to 8-of-10 shooting from the free-throw line, wasn’t the only Tiger struggling. Seventh-seeded TSU (9-20) shot just 22.7 percent, making only 17 of 75 shots.

“Our team was off,” TSU coach Tracee Wells said. “For us it hasn’t been just rolling on how she goes. We still had different people to step up and make shots. Jasmin not making her shots just made it more difficult for us. She is usually there to provide those extra shots that open it up for us. When you don’t have that it makes for a more difficult night.”

A 17-2 run midway through the first half turned a five-point deficit into a 24-14 lead for EKU (13-15). The Colonels never trailed after but the Tigers did threaten, pulling within three on Shuler’s free throw with 5:02 left. But Raechele Gray immediately answered with a 3-pointer.

Gray and Jade Barber each finished with 16 points for players, which had four players score in double figures.

Shuler, an All-OVC second team selection who averages 15.3 points, was the only Tiger in double figures but was not made available for comment. She went out with a knee injury with two minutes left in the first half but returned early in the second as Wells said it took her a few minutes to overcome the pain.

Shuler didn’t score until the 13:04 mark of the second half and then proceeded to miss her next nine shots. The Clarksville native finally connected from 3, after eight misses, with 3:47 to go.

In three games against EKU — all losses — she was 6-of-47 from the field.

“When she wants the ball in her hands and she’s confident, I’m never taking that away from my players — especially not my leading scorer,” Wells said. “We tell our shooters to keep shooting.”