January 15, 2011

First half surge helps Murray State trump Tech in Eblen Center

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Tech's early lead evaporated in a late first half Murray State surge and the visiting Racers maintained that edge throughout the second half to claim a 92-85 Ohio Valley Conference victory Saturday night in Eblen Center.

Murray State (12-4/5-2 OVC) has won eight of its last nine games, while the Golden Eagles (8-8/4-3 OVC) saw a two-game win string snapped.

Kevin Murphy lit up the scoreboard early for Tech, scoring 18 points in the first 14 minutes to spearhead the Golden Eagles' strong start. He shot 9-for-14 from the field including 3-for-4 from long distance, and went 10-for-10 at the charity stripe to finish with 31 points and lead all scorers.

Jud Dillard and Zach Bailey also reached double figures for Tech. Dilalrd netted 11 points and grabbed a team-best seven rebounds while Bailey scored 10. Zac Swansey, the OVC leader in assists, dished out seven more in the contest.

Murray State used balanced scoring with five players scoring between 13 and 16 points. Isaiah Canaan topped the Racers with 16 points and added four assists. Ivan Aska, Jewuan Long and Isaac Miles scored 14 each, and B.J. Jenkins finished with 13. Miles topped MSU with six assists while Long was the team's leader on the glass with five.

The Racers had just seven turnovers in the game, and outscored Tech 22-9 in points off turnovers.

Tech held a 34-24 advantage in rebounds in a game that saw MSU shoot 55 percent (33-for-60) from the field and Tech match that with 55.4 percent (31-for-56), including 73.9 percent (17-for-23) in the second half.

Tech went up by as many as eight points in the first five minutes, and was on top 15-7 following two free throws by Murphy with 14:54 remaining in the half. It took the Racers six minutes to snip away at the lead, and finally tie the game at 24-24 with 8:30 to go on a layup by Jeffery McClain.

Back-to-back 3-pointers by Jenkins were crucial in a 16-2 MSU run that pushed the Racers ahead, 40-28, and they held a double-digit lead until halftime.

The MSU lead grew to as many as 19 points in the second half, 60-41, at the 16:01 mark as Long connected on a three-point play.

Despite torrid shooting, Tech couldn't cut the difference to single digits until late in the contest. Murray led by 16 with 3:09 remaining, 92-76, before the Golden Eagles scored the final nine points of the game for the final seven-point margin.

Now the road rises up to meet Tech for the next four games. The Golden Eagles get their road swing underway Thursday with a 6 p.m. ESPNU game at Austin Peay, followed by a tilt at Tennessee State on Saturday night that tips off at 7:30 p.m.