Golden Eagles outlast SIUE Cougars, 78-65
Sutton moves to second in career coaching victories at TTU
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Zac Swansey and Chase Dunn had already waited a year on the sidelines to play their first "official" game in front of the home fans in Eblen Center, so another week didn't matter.
The two newcomers, each coming off a redshirt season last winter, helped Tennessee Tech overcome a second-half comeback by Southern Illinois-Edwardsville as the Golden Eagles topped the future Ohio Valley Conference foe, 78-65, Wednesday evening.
The game was Tech's first "official" home game for the season, and first win (1-3) of the year. The home opener was delayed a week when the game against Appalachian State (Nov. 23) was postponed. Earlier in the year, Tech had defeated Carson-Newman in an exhibition contest at home.
The victory was coach Mike Sutton's 130th as Golden Eagle head coach (130-120), moving him into second place in Tech's coaching ranks and breaking a tie with Frank Harrell (129-153). The career leader is Putty Overall (164-145).
Swansey (photo above right) finished with 12 points, six rebounds and five assists, and also grabbed two steals in the contest. Dunn added eight points, two rebounds, two assists and two steals.
Junior Kevin Murphy was Tech's scoring and rebound leader, posting 20 points and seven rebounds. Zach Bailey (photo at left) scored nine and Alfred Jones added eight points and five rebounds as Tech held a 44-30 advantage on the boards.
SIUE got 22 points from Cornelius Chatt to top the scoring chart, while Corey Wickware added 10 points and four assists.
Swansey drained a 3-pointer just over a minute into the contest to put Tech (1-3) on top, and when Dunn did the same at the 13:02 mark the Golden Eagles had piled up a double-digit lead, 16-5.
The Cougars (1-7) chopped into the difference, pulling to within six points a couple of times, before another Swansey bomb and a dunk by Murphy repaired the double-figure advantage. The largest margin of the half was a 13-point Tech lead, 29-16, with 2:39 remaining.
Chatt scored the final five points of the half, two on free throws and the rest on a 3-pointer with 1:35 to play, to send the teams to the break with Tech holding a 29-21 lead.
The Cougars found the range early in the second half and rode a 3-pointer by Corey Wickware on the way to cutting Tech's lead to three points, 36-33, with 16 minutes to play. A putback by Abel Tillman made it a one-point game, 36-35, before Zach Bailey's three-point play allowed Tech to keep the lead.
Midway in the second half, the Cougars did take their first lead of the contest on back-to-back baskets by Nikola Bundalo and LeShaun Murphy, giving the visitors a 49-48 edge.
The lead was short-lived, however, as Jones hit a jumper 15 seconds later, and made it a three-point-play to put Tech ahead, 51-49. From there, the Golden Eagles slowly built their lead back to nine points, 65-56, on a pair of free tosses from Murphy with 5:18 remaining.
With their first win in the books, now the Golden Eagles get down to business in the Ohio Valley Conference, playing their first league game Saturday evening at Jacksonville State. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:45 p.m.
Following that contest, the Golden Eagles return to Eblen Center to play their next six game at home, beginning next Wednesday (Dec. 8) against High Point College at 7 p.m.