Murphy leads Golden Eagles with 23 points
EVANSVILLE, Ind. – A strong defensive effort down the stretch in the second half lifted Tennessee Tech to a dramatic come-from-behind 72-70 victory over Evansville Saturday at the brand-new Ford Center.
Kevin Murphy sank a contested three-pointer from the wing with 27 seconds left to erase a one-point Evansville advantage and give the Golden Eagles a 72-70 lead they wouldn't lose. Jud Dillard and Bassey Inameti pulled down the most important rebound of the night after Denver Holmes misfired on a three in the final seconds.
Tech has now won three consecutive games and four out of five. The Golden Eagles improve to 6-4 on the season and are now2-2 in road games. Evansville falls to 4-5.
The Golden Eagles trailed by as many as nine points with 15:43 left to play, but roared back behind 17 second-half points from Murphy. Murphy led the Golden Eagles with 23 points on the night to go with seven rebounds while Jud Dillard added 18 points and grabbed eight boards. Murphy moved up another notch on TTU's all-time scoring list, passing Jimmy Hagan and moving into seventh. Murphy now has 1,548 career points. With two three-pointers, Murphy also extended his streak to 15 consecutive games with a made three.
After Evansville built its lead to nine, Tech forced the Purple Aces into back-to-back turnovers, getting steals from Zac Swansey and Jud Dillard to spark a 7-0 run. Dillard converted one of those opportunities into an and-one layup, and had an opportunity for a breakaway dunk following the other, but chose to dish off to Murphy instead, who finished the play with a dunk. Prior to that possession, Murphy had gone 2-for-8 from the field. He went on to finish 8-for-16.
When Evansville standout Colt Ryan picked up his fourth personal foul with 9:42 to play, the Golden Eagles seized the opportunity to take control of the game. Tech evened things up at 57 when Zach Bailey got fouled and sank two free throws after three consecutive offensive rebounds by the Golden Eagles. Zac Swansey gave TTU the lead at 62-61 with a three-pointer with 6:42 left.
From there, Tech built its lead as high as five with 3:06 left to play, but Evansville would come back, scoring five straight points, four of which came from Ryan, to tie the game at 68. Two free throws by Ryan Sawvell gave the Aces the lead at 70-69 with 40 seconds left, setting the scene for Murphy's game-winning three.
Tech shot 50 percent for the night and hit at a 58 percent clip in the second half. The Golden Eagles held Evansville to 43 percent for the game and just 29 percent in the first half. The Purple Aces were brilliant from the free-throw line, however, hitting 27 of 30 to shoot 90 percent from the stripe. Evansville also outrebounded TTU by 12, 36-24.
Swansey finished with nine points, seven assists and three steals to complement the big games enjoyed by Murphy and Dillard. The Golden Eagles got eight points off the bench from Zach Bailey and six from Chase Dunn. Bassey Inameti added four rebounds and a blocked shot, which allowed him to pull into a tie with Bobby Porter in seventh place on TTU's all-time blocked shots list.
Tech came out of the gates on fire in the first half, building a 10-0 lead and taking Evansville's crowd of 4,235 out of the game. Dennis Ogbe started the run with a dunk off an assist from Swansey, then Dillard scored four of Tech's next eight.
The Purple Aces fought their way back, however, cutting the lead to one point at halftime on an old-fashioned three-point play by Ryan.
Kenny Harris scored 23 points to lead Evansville, going 13-for-14 from the firee-throw line. Ryan added 22 points before fouling out with a minute left to play.