Golden Eagles comeback effort falls short in OVC opener at Jacksonville State

JACKSONVILLE, Ala. – A 10-0 second-half run by Jacksonville State proved to be the deciding factor as the Tennessee Tech men’s basketball team fell to the Gamecocks 83-72 at Pete Mathews Coliseum on Saturday in the Ohio Valley Conference opener for both teams.

The teams battled back-and-forth throughout the first half as there were six ties and eight lead changes before the break. But JSU went on an 8-0 run to start the second half, turning a 35-35 tie into a 43-35 lead that they would never give back.

Tech (3-6, 0-1) pulled within a single point at 47-46 with just over 13 minutes to play, but just then JSU (3-4, 1-0) made its deciding 10-0 run, and would not let Tech cut the deficit to less than seven.

“I’m disappointed in how we defended, but I’m proud of our kids,” Tennessee Tech head coach Mike Sutton said. “You have to defend and rebound to win games, and we didn’t do that well enough today. I think our kids are starting to understand how hard you have to play on defense.”

Four Golden Eagles reached double-figures in scoring led by Elijah Muhammad and Kevin Murphy who each scored 13 points. Muhammad added five assists and Murphy finished with four. Frank Davis finished the game with 12 points and Bassey Inameti had 11.

Terrell Barnes had eight points for Tech on 4-of-5 shooting while Byron Pickens went 2-for-2 from the floor and finished with five points. Jud Dillard scored six points for the Golden Eagles.

Jacksonville State was led by Nick Murphy who shot a perfect 6-for-6 from the floor and hit all 10 of his free throws as he scored 23 points and had a game-high 10 rebounds.

“Nick Murphy didn’t miss a shot,” Sutton said. “He had a double-double and he was perfect from the floor. We have to defend better than that.”

Trenton Marshall shot 7-of-14 from the field and hit all eight of his free throw attempts to lead all scorers with 25 points for the Gamecocks.

The Golden Eagles shot 45.6 percent (25-of-57) for the game, while JSU hit 54.3 percent (25-of-56) including 63.6 percent (14-of-22) in the second half. JSU out-rebounded Tech 31-27, and both teams finished with 11 turnovers.

Neither team built a lead larger than four points in the first half. JSU went up 13-9 after Nick Murphy hit a 3-pointer with 13:56 left in the first half, but Kevin Murphy would answer with a 3-pointer of his own for the Golden Eagles moments later. Tech would take its largest first-half lead at 23-19 on a tip-in from Riley Hunley, but the Gamecocks had an answer with a 3-pointer from Trenton Marshall on the very next possession.

Barnes put Tech up 35-31 with under two minutes to play in the first half, but JSU would close the period on a 4-0 run to tie the game heading into the break.

Davis scored 10 of his 12 points in the first half by going 2-of-3 from long distance and 4-for-4 from the free throw line. Muhammad and Kevin Murphy each scored seven first-half points for the Golden Eagles.

The Gamecocks went on a 10-2 run highlighted by a pair of 3-pointers by Jay-R Strowbridge to start the second half and put together a 45-37 lead.

But Inameti would respond for the Golden Eagles, putting together a three-point-play with just over 16 minutes to play to pull the Golden Eagles within five. Inameti hit a pair of free throws on Tech’s next possession to cut the lead to 45-42. A jumper from Barnes would cap Tech’s 9-2 run, making the score 47-46 with 13:17 to play before JSU pulled away.

Tech will step back out of conference play for the rest of December as its hosts Ball State (Dec. 12), Bryan College (Dec. 19) and Union (Dec. 30) to close out the month.

“We have a week to get better before we face a tough Ball State team,” Sutton said.

The Golden Eagles will resume OVC play for the remainder of the season, with the exception of its Bracket Buster game on Feb. 20, beginning with a trip to Southeast Missouri (Jan. 2) and Eastern Illinois (Jan. 4).

Single game and season tickets are available through the Tennessee Tech athletics ticket office by calling (931) 372-3940 or visiting TTUsports.com.