Golden Eagles slip past Gardner-Webb, 60-58, in final minute

Golden Eagles slip past Gardner-Webb, 60-58, in final minute

Jud Dillard (photo) led Tech with 13 points and 12 rebounds for a double-double

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Kevin Murphy scored the final 10 points of the game for Tennessee Tech, including two free throws with two seconds remaining that proved to be the game-winners as the Golden Eagles avoided an upset in claiming a 60-58 victory over Gardner-Webb Saturday in a BracketBuster game in Eblen Center.

The Golden Eagles improved to 16-11 overall with the homecourt victory while Gardner-Webb’s mark slipped to 9-19.

Murphy finished with 16 points to top Tech. Jud Dillard posted a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds while Zach Bailey netted 10 and Zac Swansey finished with nine.

Laron Buggs was the top-scorer for the Runnin’ Bulldogs with 19 points while Jon Moore added 15. Stefon Johnson and Santoine Butler scored eight each.

Tech bolted to a quick 9-0 lead but it didn’t hold up as Gardner-Webb fought back with a 12-2 run to claim a 12-11 lead midway through the first half. The Runnin’ Bulldogs were on top by two, 14-12, following a layup by Stefon Johnson before the Golden Eagles pieced together a 17-5 run, marking the largest lead of the half at 29-19. Tech went to halftime on top by six, 29-23.

Gardner-Webb opened the second half with an 18-6 run to take a six-point lead at 41-35 with 11:08 remaining. The GWU lead grew to seven a couple of times, the last time at 45-38 on a dunk by Butler with 8:34 remaining that brought the Bulldogs’ bench players to their feet.

But Tech stormed back behind Alfred Jones, Zach Bailey and Dillard with a 9-0 run that pushed the Golden Eagles back on top at 46-45 with 6:38 to play.

GWU got a 3-pointer by Buggs to take a 50-48 lead and a Johnson free throw made it 51-48.

Tech tied it with two Swansey free throws and GWU went back up by two with a pair of charity tosses by Buggs, leaving the Runnin’ Bulldogs with a 54-52 lead with 2:35 to play.

That set the stage for Murphy, who had struggled up to that point with 1-for-7 shooting from the field. The junior stepped up with a jumper to tie the game at 54-54.

After Johnson made one free throw with 1:58 left to give GWU a 55-54 lead, Murphy drained a pull-up jumper from 18 feet with 1:05 remaining for a 56-55 Golden Eagle lead. A missed shot by Buggs set up Murphy at the other end for a jumper with 11 seconds left and a 58-55 lead.

Those two big baskets would have gone for naught if Murphy hadn’t made both free throws with two seconds left, making it a 60-55 lead as Luke Engelken drained a 3-pointer out of the corner at the buzzer for the final two-point difference.

Tech heads to SIU-Edwardsville for a non-conference game Tuesday. The Cougars will compete in the OVC in basketball beginning next season. It’s a doubleheader with the Golden Eagle women starting the action with a 5:30 p.m. tipoff. The men’s game will begin at 7:30 p.m.

Following that, Tech returns to Eblen Center Saturday (Feb. 26) for Senior Day and the regular season finale against Jacksonville State. That doubleheader starts at 5:30 p.m. For tickets or information, call (931) 372-3940 or visit the Athletics Ticket Office in Eblen Center.