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November 24, 2008

East Tennessee stops Tech 78-65 in Eblen Center action

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. - Tennessee Tech just couldn't get its shots to fall from inside, outside or anywhere in between Monday night and didn't find an answer to the physical play of East Tennessee State in surrendering a 78-65 loss to the Bucs in Eblen Center in non-conference action.

The Golden Eagles (3-1) were on the short end for the first time this season, while East Tennessee (3-2) moved above the .500 mark.

Tech spent the entire second half playing catch-up after falling behind by as many as 16 points in the first half. Tech shot just 29 percent in the first half and the Bucs owned a 25-16 advantage in rebounds in the first period.

Tech finished the game shooting a season-low 32.8 percent from the field, and lost the battle on the boards, 42-31.

"The things that we needed to do well were defend and rebound, and we got outrebounded by 11," said TTU coach Mike Sutton. "Rebounding is very important to us. We emphasize it all the time, and we haven't done a good enough job with this group."

Senior Daniel Northern led Tech with 20 points, including 10-for-11 at the free throw line. Junior Will Barnes scored 13 and junior newcomers DJ Lindsay added 10 points and a team-best seven rebounds.

East Tennessee also had three players in double figures, with two topping the 20-point barrier. Kevin Tiggs led with 23 points along with eight rebounds and three assists. Courtney Pigram added 22 points and five assists, while Mike Smith recorded a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Greg Hamlin chipped in with eight points, seven rebounds, three assists and three blocked shots.

"They have two really good players who get to the line a lot," Sutton said. "You have to have a good defensive night against them."

The Bucs grabbed an early lead and held it throughout the first half, building it to 10 points midway throughout the period, 26-16, when Micah Williams hit a 3-pointer.

The Golden Eagles scored a couple of baskets to pull within six at 26-20, but ETSU continued to win the transition game and answered with two baskets for another 10-point edge. The lead grew to 16 points, 38-22, with three minutes remaining for the Bucs' biggest bulge of the half.

They led by 16 again, just before the break, when Elijah Muhammad hit two free throws with two seconds to play to make it a 14-point difference at halftime.

Down a dozen, 47-35, the Golden Eagles found a spark when Alex Davis poured in a 3-pointer from the left wing, and a moment later Daniel Northern hit two free throws to slice the difference down to seven, 47-40.

Tech scored four more points on free tosses by Northern and Muhammad, putting the Golden Eagles within three points, 47-44, with 11:12 remaining.

But East Tennessee recovered and scratched its way back to a double-digit lead. A 3-pointer by Pigram at the 7:14 mark came after Tech had whittled it down to a five-point game, pushing ETSU's lead back to eight.

With 3:30 to go, the Bucs had expanded their advantage to 13 points, 67-54, and they showed patience down the stretch to keep the difference in double figures.

Tech's next action is Saturday afternoon in Eblen Center when the Golden Eagles host the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks at 1 p.m.

GOLDEN NUGGETS: Tech is 41-3 in Eblen Center since 1997 in non-conference games, and two of those three losses are to East Tennessee, including a seven-point loss to the Bucs in 2003-04 (the other was last year to North Dakota State).