November 13, 2009

Golden Eagles drop season opener at No. 18 Minnesota

 

TWIN CITIES, Minn. - The 18th ranked University of Minnesota Gophers took advantage of a size advantage and used some sizzling second-half shooting to pull away from scrappy Tennessee Tech Friday night and claim an 87-50 victory in both teams' season opener in historic Williams Arena.

All-Big 10 guard Lawrence Westbrook beat the halftime buzzer with a long 3-pointer to give Minnesota a 15-point lead at the break, then scored 13 of his 22 points in the second half as Minnesota cruised to the win.

Tech kept things close through most of the first half, and when senior Frank Davis drained three free throws with just under two minutes to play, the Golden Eagles were within seven points, 28-21.

But Minnesota got back-to-back layups from Colton Iverson and Westbrook to make it a 12-point lead and took advantage of the final 3.8 seconds to set up a play that resulted in Westbrook's buzzer beater that made it 37-22 heading to the dressing rooms.

Minnesota was 7-for-11 from long range in the second half, and the Golden Gophers gave a glimpse of why the lead the Big Ten in blocking shots, batting down 15 attempts by Tech led by 6-foot-8 Damian Johnson with five and 6-10 Colton Iverson with four.

Sophomore wing Kevin Murphy led Tech in scoring with 10 points, while seniors Frank Davis and Elijah Cunningham-Muhammad had nine each. Guard Zach Bailed scored seven points and led Tech in rebounds with six.

In addition to 22 from Westbrook, Minnesota got 14 points from Rodney Williams and nine each from Paul Carter, Johnson and Ralph Sampson III. The son of former All-American and NBA all-star Ralph Sampson, the young Gopher sophomore center had nine rebounds.


The Minnesota lead reached 30 points with seven minutes remaining and the Gophers continued to hit shots from all over the court, finishing the game with a 6-0 run to account for the final margin.

Tech shot 28.3 percent from the field, hitting 15-for-53, and went 5-for-15 (33 percent) from long range. The Golden Eagles were 15-for-18 for 83.3 percent at the free throw line, and stayed within four in the final rebound tally, losing the battle 39-35.

Four players made their Tech debuts in the contest. Byron Pickens and Jud Dillard were the top scorers among the Golden Eagle newcomers with four points each. Charles Newton and Terrell Barnes also saw their first collegiate action but did not score.

The Golden Eagles (0-1) will stay in Minnesota until Sunday, then head to Arkansas where they face the University of Central Arkansas Bears Monday evening. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. and the game can be heard live on the Golden Eagle Sports Network and Free Teamline.

The road trip continues later next week with games at Lipscomb on Thursday night and Mempis Friday. The first home game for the Golden Eagles is Monday, Nov. 23, when Tech hosts Oakland University as part of the Hall of Fame Showcase Tournament.

Season tickets for Tech basketball are on sale at the Athletics Ticket Office in Eblen Center or by calling (931) 372-3940. Tickets are also available online at TTUsports.com.