COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- If the first meeting between Tech and the
Eastern Kentucky Colonels is any indication, then Thursday
night’s second go-round should be another great game. Add the
first meeting to the list of the classic basketball games in the
Ohio Valley Conference lore.
Eastern Kentucky's long-range bombers against a gritty, gutsy, fighting, scrapping effort from Tennessee Tech.
The Golden Eagles were bombed out of the gym - out of the city, practically - and fell behind 20-6 in the opening minutes. But coach Mike Sutton's team took it down to the wire before falling, 85-80, in McBrayer Arena, back on Jan. 10.
Thursday, the two teams square off again and it’s a crucial game as far as the OVC standing go. Tech comes into the contest with an 11-10 overall record and a 5-6 mark in the OVC. Just ahead of Tech, the Colonels are 6-5 in the conference and 13-9 overall.
Thursday’s game opens a vital three-game homestand for the Golden Eagles that could propel Tech toward the top of the standings. After hosting EKUt, the Golden Eagles entertain first-place Morehead State on Saturday and second-place Austin Peay on Monday.
In that first meeting, credit goes to the Colonels, who found an answer after initially collapsing under the weight of Tech's ferocious comeback. EKU stayed out front just enough throughout a hectic second half, and hit free throws when needed, to pull out the victory.
Credit also goes to Tennessee Tech, which just simply would not quit. Tech battled inside and outside, and made tough plays in a tough environment.
Frank Davis tied the school record - for the second time this season - by making six consecutive 3-pointers. He finished with a career-best 24 points to lead Tech, going 7-for-12 from outside the stripe. Tech also got double figure scoring from Will Barnes with 11 and Bassey Inameti, who tied his career-high with 10 points. Freshman Kevin Murphy also tied a career-high by leading Tech with seven assists. Nine different players scored for Tech
EKU canned a dozen 3-pointer, led by freshman Joshua Jones with four on his way to 25 points, and Josh Taylor, who nailed three treys and finished with 13 points. Mike Rose, the team's leading scorer, added 18 points and Justin Stommes scored 12.
All that action, and the game was settled when the clock was stopped as EKU made nine of 10 free throws in the final minute to hang on.
Rose, one of the prime candidates for OVC Player of the Year, leads EKU with 20.4 points per game and ranks second on the team in rebounds with 5.9 per outing. He is also first on the Colonel roster in steals and second in assists.
Two other Colonels are averaging in double digits Justin Stommes is scoring 10.1 per game while Josh Taylor is notching 10.0 per game. Both, like Rose, are a threat from deep any time, anywhere.
Papa Oppong is also a weapon, leading the team in rebounds with 6.1 per game, and ranking fourth in scoring with 9.9 per outing. And, of course Tech must also keep an eye on Jones, who is averaging 7.5 ppg.
EKU comes into the game on a gtw0game win streak, posting victories at home over Austin Peay (73-70 in overtime) and Tennessee State (77-59).
The Golden Eagles are hoping to make it two straight, coming off a 91-75 win at Southeast Missouri last Saturday night. Daniel Northern, who had 27 points and 18 rebounds against the Redhawks, leads Tech in scoring (12.2 ppg) and rebounds 98.1 rpg).
Junior guards Will Barnes (10.7) and Frank Davis (10.3) are also scoring in double digits this season.
One thing the Golden Eagles must overcome is their record in games played this season on Thursdays. Tech is 0-5 this year in Thursday games, while seven of their 11 wins have come on Saturdays.