NASHVILLE, Tenn. – It wasn’t the league’s
Player of the Year who did the damage Friday night. It didn’t
need to be.
Morehead State guard Maze Stallworth, whose accuracy from long distance early in the game was deadly, lifted the No. 2 seeded Eagles to a gaping lead and they kept in control for a 76-47 victory over No. 6 seed Tennessee Tech in the semifinals of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament in the Bridgestone Arena.
Junior Kenneth Faried, the OVC Player of the Year, had a big hand in the victory, but he wasn’t the one who stung the Golden Eagles this time. It was Stallworth, a first-team all-OVC pick who led all scorers with 24 points. He was 8-for-12, including 4-for-5 3-pointers.
Tech didn’t have an answer. For the Golden Eagles, the shots wouldn’t fall, the close calls went the other way and it was just to many obstacles to overcome. Tech ends the season with a 15-17 overall record.
Morehead State, 23-9, is attempting to defend the OVC Tournament title that it won last year with a buzzer-beater over Austin Peay, and will get the chance Saturday night in the championship game against top-seeded Murray State. The Racers were a 55-51 winner over No. 4 Eastern Illinois in the first semifinal game of the night.
Nobody reached double figures for the Golden Eagles. Alfred Jones, Elijah Muhammad, Jud Dillard and Zach Bailey scored nine each. Tech shot 36.6 percent for the game, including 1-for-11 from long range. The Golden Eagles had 20 turnovers.
In addition to 24 points, Stallworth had seven rebounds, three assists, two steals and a blocked shots. Faried, the nation’s leading rebounder, finished with 10 points and nine rebounds, well below his averages. Terrance Hill and Demonte Harper added 10 points each.
The MSU Eagles shot 44.6 percent from the field, highlighted by 9-for-20 gunning from downtown for 45 percent. MSU was 17-for-19 at the free throw line and held a 33-26 advantage on the boards.
Tech led 2-0 and was tied at 6-6, but Stallworth ignited the Eagles with his first 3-pointer at the 15:33 mark. It opened an 18-3 run that left Morehead State on top, 24-9, with eight minutes remaining in the half.
Tech’s early woes continued as the Golden Eagles managed just three free throws over the next three minutes, and the Morehead State lead grew to 32-15 before Elijah Muhammad sank a 3-pointer. It ended a stretch of just over 11 minutes without a field goal for the Golden Eagles.
Stallworth had the range from the opening tipoff, going 5-for-8 in the first half, including three 3-pointers, on his way to 15 points by the break.
Tech shot 28.6 percent in the first 20 minutes and Morehead State nailed 52 percent of its first half shots.
The Golden Eagles came out and scored the first two baskets of the second half, but 14 points was as close as they could get.