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December 7, 2011

Team effort, led by Murphy, leads to 83-74 win over East Tennessee

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. –- Tennessee Tech shared the ball, rebounded and shot well. It was a perfect formula for a convincing 83-74 Golden Eagle victory Wednesday night over East Tennessee State in Eblen Center.

Facing their second-oldest rival and looking to end a six-game winning streak by the Buccaneers over Tech, the Golden Eagles (4-4) put together one of their best overall team performances of the season to the delight of 1,455 fans on a chilly night in Cookeville. ETSU fell to 3-5 overall.

A 14-2 run to open the second half gave Tech some breathing room and a 20-point lead, and the Golden Eagles enjoyed a double-digit margin until the game’s final 25 seconds.

Senior Kevin Murphy, the OVC preseason Player of the Year, led Tech in scoring with 23 points on 10-for-13 shooting. In the process he moved ahead of TTU Hall of Famer Kenny Sidwell into eighth place in career scoring with 1,496 points. He also had six rebounds, two assists and two steals, a blocked shot and hit at least one 3-pointer (2-for-4) for his 13th consecutive game.

Jud Dillard added 14 points and six rebounds, going 6-for-6 at the free throw line, while sophomore Dennis Ogbe also reached double figures with 11 points and six rebounds. Point guard Zac Swansey had a solid floor game with nine points and eight assists. Zach Bailey added nine points and six rebounds, while Terrell Barnes provided five points, six rebounds and three assists.

The 83 points was Tech’s highest output of the season against a Division I foe and Tech owned a 36-27 advantage on the boards. Likewise, the 16 assists were also a season best, and the Golden Eagles shot 55.1 percent (27-for-49 from the field and 50 percent (9-for-18) from outside the arc.

Four players scored in double figures for the Buccaneers, led by Sheldon Cooley and Isiah Brown with 12 each. Brown also topped ETSU in rebounds with seven. Tommy Hubbard and Marcus Dubose scored 10 each while Jarvis Jones netted nine and Lukas Poderis scored eight.

The battle was tight from the get-go, with neither team establishing the upper hand through the first 13 minutes. The contest was tied four times and the largest margin was a couple of three-point Tech leads.

Then, with 7:30 to go, Ogbe broke a 17-all tie with a pair of free throws to start an 8-0 Golden Eagle run that led to a 25-17 lead. All eight points came at the free throw line, where Tech was 16-for-20 in the first half.

East Tennessee pulled to within three on a three-point play by Tommy Hubbard with 4:25 to go, but Tech responded by scoring the next six points, including four by Dillard and a basket by Terrell Barnes to make it 33-24 with 1:58 left.

Tech was on top by eight at halftime, 37-29.

The decisive stretch in the game came in the first five minutes of the second half as Tech made its first five shots in a 14-2 run that opened a 20-point lead at 51-31. From there Tech continued to build the lead, growing it to as many as 28 points when Bailey’s 3-pointer with 12:57 to play made it 61-33.

The Tech lead was at 17 points with just 4:23 remaining when Barnes hit a jumper for a 78-61 lead, and it was still at 17 with 1:35 to go when Murphy knocked down a 3-pointer for an 83-66 lead.

ETSU scored the final eight points of the game for the final nine-point margin.

Tech stays at home for its next contest, hosting Lipscomb University Saturday at 7 p.m., before taking a week-long break from action for final exams. Tickets are available at the Athletics Ticket Office in Eblen Center or by calling (931) 372-3940.