JACKSONVILLE, Ala. – When the ball left B.J. Miller's hands with two seconds left on the clock, the game between Tennessee Tech and Jacksonville State was far from decided, as Miller's would-be three-point game winner fell short, giving the Golden Eagles their first conference victory of the 2010-11 season.
The first half of the contest would have suggested differently, however, as JSU's Nick Murphy went 6-for-7 from the field for 15 points to help the Gamecocks take control of the game, building a 14-point lead with just under nine minutes to play in the first half.
Tech chipped away at the margin, led by junior guard Kevin Murphy with six points in the half, to cut the lead to three headed into the locker room, and when the team came back out, they had different plans for the second half.
A lay-up by senior Alfred Jones followed by a slam from Jud Dillard gave Tech it's first lead of the night, 29-28, and kicked the Golden Eagle offense into high gear. In the second half, TTU dominated JSU in the paint 24 points to 12 and logged a total of 32 points off of turnovers and fast breaks to the Gamecocks' 14. Tech also saw 10 points from their bench in the second half, 21 on the game. Jones led the Golden Eagles to victory with his 14 points and four rebounds, going 5-for-8 from the floor and shooting a perfect 4-for-4 from the charity stripe.
With 39 seconds on the clock and ice in his veins, Swansey drained two free-throws to put the Golden Eagles up, 63-60. Jacksonville's Nick Murphy quickly cut the lead back to one with a lay-up, and a quick foul put Tech's Kevin Murphy on the line with 13 seconds to play.
Giving fans their money's worth, Murphy went 1-for-2 from the line, giving the Gamecocks one more drive down the floor with the score sitting at 64-62. On the other end, a loose ball knocked out of bounds favored JSU, forcing Tech to use its final timeout and putting the Gamecocks underneath their own basket with 3.2 seconds to play. The inbounds play found Miller on the baseline, but his heave fell short, giving Tech their first OVC win of the season in as many games.
"It was a really hard-fought win, they did a good job, but we made some good plays after getting off to a bad start, being down 12 to nothing," said Tech head coach Mike Sutton. "We had a couple of big plays, Jud [Dillard] stepped up, both Zach Bailey (pictured) and Zac Swansey made some great plays, and a lot of our guys off the bench like Liam [McMorrow] and Charles Newton really got it going for us. We'll take it, it's an OVC win.
"The biggest thing for us is that its so early in the season, it's only our fifth game of the year – no division one team in the country has played that few games," Sutton continued. "Hopefully now we'll start to get into a routine with our upcoming games so that we can continue to improve."
Murphy recorded 12 points on the night and led the team in rebounds for the second consecutive game with five. Bailey chipped in with 13 points, 10 of which came in the second half, while Swansey added nine points and eight assists to the mix for Tech.
"It felt great opening up with a win on somebody else's home court," Murphy said. "We came out slow but we came out hard in the second half on defense and made some stops. Our defense and our rebounding really improved, and that was the biggest change from the first half."
The men's win finished the weekend sweep of the Gamecocks, as the women's basketball team won game one of the day's double header event, 79-63.
Wednesday evening will mark the team's return to Cookeville for a game against High Point in Eblen Center at 7 p.m.