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February 18, 2012

Golden Eagles rally from 15-point deficit for BracketBusters win

Dillard scores 22, Murphy adds 21 in victory

CONWAY, S.C. – Tennessee Tech flipped the script against Coastal Carolina on Saturday, rallying from a 15-point first-half deficit to claim a 77-71 victory over the Chanticleers on Senior Day at Kimbel Arena in a Sears BracketBusters contest.

The Golden Eagles went on a 20-5 run over the final eight minutes of the first half to pull even with Coastal at halftime after trailing 21-6 at the 8:58 mark. Tech went on another game-changing run early in the second period, going on a 12-2 jaunt with 17:47 left to play to take a 44-34 advantage at the 15:29 mark.

With the win, Tech has now won five of its last seven and improves to 18-11 overall this season. Coastal Carolina falls to 18-9. The win was the first ever for the Golden Eagles on the road in a BracketBusters contest as they improved to 3-4 all-time in the event.

TTU led by as many as 16 with 10:51 remaining but had to hold off a late Coastal push. CCU cut the lead to four at 75-71 with 38 seconds left but strong defense on the part of the Golden Eagles down the stretch didn't allow the Chanticleers to get any closer.

Jud Dillard, who wasn't in the starting lineup for the first time this season, came off the bench to lead Tech in scoring with 22 points and seven rebounds. Kevin Murphy scored 21 and came up one rebound shy of a double-double with nine boards while Zac Swansey also scored in double-figures with 13 points and four assists.

The game marked the seventh time this season that Dillard and Murphy, who make up the No. 3 scoring duo in the country, have each scored 20-plus points in the same outing. Swansey's double-figure scoring game was his third consecutive.

Tennessee Tech recovered from a first half in which it shot 36.8 percent and turned the ball over 11 times, improving its field goal percentage to 60.0 percent in the second period and hitting 7-for-9 from three-point range. Swansey drained four threes on the afternoon while Murphy added three and Dillard had two.

The Golden Eagles held Coastal Carolina, which ranked ninth in NCAA Division I in field-goal percentage, to a 45.9 percent shooting day and also pulled even with the Chanticleers on the boards at 32-32. Coastal came into the game with a +6.8 rebounding margin, ranking 19th in the nation.

In addition to big games from Dillard, Murphy and Swansey, the Golden Eagles got seven points from Zach Bailey to go with five points, eight rebounds and three assists from Terrell Barnes.

Coastal Carolina put five players in double-figures, led by Jon Pack, who scored 15 points and nine rebounds. Sam McLaurin added 12 points and five boards while Chris Gradnigo and Anthony Raffa also scored 12 points.

Tech converted just one field goal in the game's first 11 minutes, but the Golden Eagles' fortunes began to shift when Swansey found Javon McKay for a thunderous alley-oop at the 8:58 mark. Murphy then got hot down the stretch in the first half, scoring nine points in a two-minute span, and Swansey drained a three to tie the game with six seconds left.

Early in the second half, the Golden Eagles used the three-ball again to build a double-digit lead they wouldn't lose. Swansey, Dillard and Murphy hit six threes in the first six minutes of the half to help TTU to a 49-36 lead at the 14-minute mark.

Tech will have a week to prepare for its final regular-season game of the season against OVC regular-season champion Murray State on Feb. 25. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m. at Eblen Center.