January 2, 2011

Second half surge lifts Golden Eagles over Bluefield, 74-56

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Tech had to work a lot harder than expected Sunday afternoon to even their season record and remain unbeaten against Bluefield College. The Rams challenged Tech throughout the first half before the Golden Eagles took control in the second half for a 74-56 non-conference victory.

The win allowed the Golden Eagles to level their overall season record at 6-6 while Bluefield’s record dipped to 4-10.

Sunday’s outcome allowed Tech to stay perfect in the all-time series with the NAIA program from Virginia at 7-0, but this was one of the toughest challenges the Rams have provided.

Tech held Bluefield to two field goals over a 17-minute span, and used that defensive stretch to open a double-figure lead in a contest that was close up until halftime.

Redshirt freshman Chase Dunn finished with 21 points in 22 minutes on the floor to pace the Golden Eagles, while junior Kevin Murphy netted 20. Forwards Jud Dillard and Alfred Jones (photo above right) each had solid games in the paint. Dillard finished with 10 points and nine rebounds, while Jones added 11 points and eight rebounds.

Three players were in double figures for the Rams, led by Rob Wright with 14 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals. Borgia M’Bala and Alvin Board had 10 apiece.

Dunn’s 3-pointer with 12:42 to play in the half put Tech into a double-digit lead at 16-5, but that didn’t last long. The Rams put together a 13-2 scoring run to tie the game at 18-18 with 8:56 remaining. M’Bala hit back-to-back 3-pointers to make it a three-point game and Dmitry Zimin’s jumper knotted the contest.

Ted O’boute followed with a jumper at the 7:57 mark and Bluefield led, 20-18. A 3-pointer at the 5:28 mark by Rob Wright opened the Rams’ lead to five points, 23-18, their largest advantage of the night.

Murphy poured through a 3-pointer and Zac Swansey hit a layup following a steal and feed from Dillard and the Golden Eagles had tied it at 23-23.

The contest was tied one more time at 25-all on a jumper by Wright, and M’Bala’s 3-pointer with 2:54 to play put Bluefield on top once again, this time by a 28-27 margin,

The Golden Eagles scored the final eight points of the half, including a 17-footer by Murphy as the horn sounded to give Tech a 35-28 lead at halftime.

After shooting 50 percent in the first half, Tech connected on 52.2 percent of its shots (12-for-23) in the second half. But it wasn’t the offense that keyed Tech in pulling ahead. It was a defensive effort that held Bluefield without a field goal for the final 2:54 of the first half, and just two baskets – both by Byron Carpenter – over the first 17:21 of the second half.

Tech built the lead to 20 points with 8:39 remaining, 57-37, on a layup by Jones. The largest lead of the night was a 27-point bulge, 70-43, with three minutes to play.

The Golden Eagles head to Kentucky’s infamous “Death Valley” this week for Ohio Valley Conference tilts at Morehead State Thursday and Eastern Kentucky Saturday. The game at MSU tips off Thursday at 6:30 p.m. CT, while Saturday’s visit at EKU starts at 6 p.m. CT.