COOKEVILLE, Tenn. - Tied with less than two minutes to play,
Tennessee Tech outscored Murray State 9-3 down the stretch -
including a clutch jumper by sophomore point guard Elijah Muhammad
- and the Golden Eagles claimed a 61-55 Ohio Valley Conference
victory over the Racers Saturday night before 3,420 fans in Eblen
The win allowed Tech to catch Murray State and climb into a four-way tie for fifth place in the tight OVC race with identical 3-4 conference records. Tech improved to 9-8 overall, while MSU fell to 8-9.
After Daniel Northern made two free throws for a 54-52 lead, Muhammad dropped in a 10-footer with 50 seconds to play to put Tech ahead by four, 56-52. At the other end, Danero Thomas drove into traffic and put together a three-point play to make it a one-point game, 56-55, with 37.3 seconds remaining.
Muhammad was fouled on the inbounds play and he coolly made both for a 58-55 lead. The Racers missed two 3-point attempts to tie the game, and fouled Will Barnes on the rebound. He made two charity tosses with 18 seconds left to make it 60-55, and Zach Bailey added a final free throw with four seconds left.
Tech got scoring contributions from 10 different players, led by Daniel Northern. The senior center had 13 points, seven rebounds and five blocked shots. Alfred Jones canned both of his 3-point tries and finished with eight points. Muhammad also finished with eight along with four assists, while Will Barnes and Zach Bailey scored seven each, and Alex Davis and Frank Davis each chipped in with six.
Danero Thomas topped Murray State with 15 points and four steals, while Ivan Aska added 10 points and six rebounds. Donte Poole had 10 points and six rebounds, Isaac Miles added nine and Toney Easley scored eight. Jeffrey McClain was the game's top rebounder, grabbing eight caroms.
Murray held a 35-31 edge in rebounds.
Murray State had a couple of one-point leads in the first half, and the score was tied three times. Other than that the Golden Eagles were on top for nearly the entire 20 minutes. Tech led by six early in the half, then went to halftime with a seven-point lead, 34-27, when Kevin Murphy sank a 3-pointer the buzzer.
Danero Thomas scored five straight points early in the second half, erasing a five-point Golden Eagle lead, and tying the contest at 36-36.
The contest was tied five more times over the next 15 minutes, the ninth and last of the came being at 52-52. Murray's largest lead of the game was two points, 44-42, in a 3-pointer by Miles with 10:41 to play.
After hitting 51.9 percent in the first half, Tech shot 43 percent in the second, finishing the game at 48.8 percent from the field. The Golden Eagles hit 50 percent (5-for-10) of their 3-point tries, and were 14-for-20 for 70 percent at the free throw lines.
Murray State shot 36 percent in the first half and 33 percent in the second for a 34.5 game mark. The Racers hit 22.2 percent (4-for-18) from long distance, and went 13-for-21 (61.9 percent) at the line.
The Golden Eagles will visit Austin Peay next Thursday night, then travel to Nashville Saturday to face Tennessee State. After that, Tech plays at Eastern Illinois and Southeast Missouri, before returning home to host Eastern Kentucky on Thursday, Feb. 5.