By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information Coordinator
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – In what quickly became the theme of the Holiday Inn Downtown Marina Islanders Tournament, Sunday's game became yet another instant classic as the Tennessee Tech men's basketball team fell to IPFW, 69-66.
Down by as many as 12 points in the first half, the Golden Eagles showed a strong resilience they had displayed all weekend, using stout defensive play and some clutch buckets to cut the lead to just six points heading into halftime.
The comeback attempt would fall just short in the end, as the Mastodons used 53.8 percent shooting to edge the Golden Eagles in a game that was just inches from becoming a Tech victory. Tech, who had been dealing with a stomach virus going around the locker room, didn't seem to quite have the same stamina it usually displays, but made an incredible effort down the stretch regardless.
Luis Jacobo led all scorers, putting up a double-double for the Mastodons with 20 points and 10 rebounds. He would be the only IPFW player to score in double-figures.
JUCO transfer Dwan Caldwell put together a second-straight offensive show, setting a new career-high with 15 points and adding six boards off the glass. The center gathered all-tournament honors after averaging 11 points and five rebounds for the weekend.
Senior Dennis Ogbe, who finally started to look healthy after suffering from a multitude of illnesses to begin the season, also contributed 15 points while adding six rebounds. The Munich, Germany native was key down the stretch for the Golden Eagles as well, scoring nine points over the final six minutes of play.
Another JUCO transfer wrapped up the double-digit scorers for Tech as Ty Allen scored 11 while pulling in a career-high five rebounds.
The Golden Eagles seemed destined to force an overtime period with their play down the stretch.
The comeback started at the 6:55 mark when Tech, down by 11 at that point, found Allen open from 3-point range. The junior drained the bucket and head coach Steve Payne called for a timeout. Out of the break, IPFW missed a field goal that led to a layup by Ogbe, who finished strong while inducing a foul.
After sinking the free throw, the Golden Eagles had cut the lead to just 57-52. Mastodon Joe Reed drew a foul and headed to the line on the next series, but the forward missed both shots from the charity stripe. Tech took advantage, gathering a layup from Allen with 5:41 to play to make it just a three-point game.
IPFW brought the ball up the floor and tried to kill some clock, but the Golden Eagle defense held strong as senior Jeremiah Samarrippas created a steal and hit JUCO transfer Ladon Carter for a transition dunk to bring the Tech squad within one point.
The Mastodons finally were able to put up a score, but Ogbe came through with his second clutch bucket of the game, making a fantastic post move for the lay-in while drawing another foul. Not even 24 hours after going a career-worst 1-for-6 from the charity stripe, Ogbe was brilliant at the free throw line on Sunday, sinking all four attempts, including the game-tying freebie following the foul.
Over the next two minutes, the Mastodons went on an 8-2 scoring run, capitalizing on free throws with 51 seconds to play to take a six point lead, 67-61.
But once again, the Senior Class Award candidate (Ogbe), proved clutch, hitting a 3-pointer with 39 seconds to play to put Tech back within two. On the ensuing inbounds play, Carter forced a turnover, stealing the ball from IPFW's Luis Jacobo and hitting a layup with 21.7 seconds to pull Tech within one, down 67-66.
The Golden Eagles fouled Mastodon Pierre Bland with 12.4 seconds to play, sending the guard to the line for two shots. Bland sank the first before bouncing the second one off the iron. Redshirt sophomore Josiah Moore came down with the rebound, giving the Tech squad one last try to erase the two-point deficit.
Samarrippas brought the ball up the floor and hit Allen for an open look from 3-point range, but the ball clanked off the rim, missing by sheer inches, and the ball went out of bounds with one second to play. IPFW would hit one of two free throws to walk away with the 69-66 victory.
After three games in three days, the Golden Eagles will take a three-day break, not returning to action until Thursday evening when they host Indiana-Kokomo in a 7 p.m. CT tilt.