By Rob Schabert, Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The offense simply wasn't working very well, so Tennessee Tech turned to defense and almost pulled off an improbable comeback in the final four minutes. Almost, but not quite.
Milwaukee took advantage of some timely 3-point shots and an ice-cold second half by the Golden Eagles to battle its way to a 70-63 victory Saturday night in Eblen Center.
It was the first loss at home for Tech (3-4) following two wins. Meanwhile, Milwaukee (5-2) won for the fifth time in six games away from home.
Down by a dozen, Tech's frantic, trapping defense forced several turnovers down the stretch and the Golden Eagles got the crowd to its feet when it made it a one possession game, pulling to within three points, 64-61, in the final 1:32.
But an array of whistles and a variety of foul calls determined the direction of the final 30 seconds.
Tech was within three one more time, 66-63, with 16 seconds left, before Mitch Roelke stepped to the free throw line and made four straight to seal the win. They came on the same play, when a flagrant foul was called on Tech along with the second technical on Matt Tiby, sending him racing to the dressing room and pulling off his shirt on the way.
Sophomore Austin Arians led all scorers with 17 points for the Panthers, hitting 6-for-10 including three 3-pointers. Tiby added 14 points and Kyle Kelm had 12. That threesome combined to shoot 15-for-29. No other Milwaukee player had more than one basket. Arians topped Milwaukee on the glass with seven.
Dwan Caldwell was Tech's leader with 13 points, nine rebounds, and four blocked shots, shooting 6-for-12. Ty Allen was the only other Golden Eagle in double figures with 12.
Dennis Ogbe and Allen fouled out for Tech, while Milwaukee had Tiby and Steve McWhorter each leave early due to whistles. A total of 47 fouls were called.
Workmanlike effort in the first half left Tech with a 28-24 lead at halftime.
The Golden Eagles missed all five of shots during the first five minutes of the second half, while Milwaukee was 4-for-8 during that stretch as the Panthers erased the four-point deficit to take a three-point lead.
The downward trend in Tech's shooting continued over the next six minutes, as well, and with 10 minutes to play, the Panthers had opened a nine-point lead at 52-43. At that point, Tech was shooting 15.4 percent (2-for-13) in the second stanza while Milwaukee had connected on 57.1 percent (8-for-14).
Tech found itself trailing 62-50 with 4:11 to play as the Panthers built the largest lead of the contest at the free throw line. Milwaukee went 5-for-5 at the line in a stretch that moved its lead from eight to 12 points.
Tech's comeback began quietly with a free throw by Matt Marseille. He followed with a layup 30 seconds later that pulled Tech to within nine. The 9-0 Golden Eagle run included an offensive putback by Ladon Carter, two free throws from Ammanuel Diressa and a layup by Jeremiah Samarrippas. That made it 62-59 with 1:57 to play and set the stage for the wild finish.
The shooting disparity, both from the field and outside the arc, was the difference in a game where nearly every other statistical comparison was close. Tech held a 44-36 advantage in rebounds, including 21 offensive boards. Milwaukee had 18 turnovers to 16 by the Golden Eagles.
Points in the paint were 32-30, points off turnovers were 20-19, and second chance points were 15-12.
Tech finished the game shooting 31.1 percenet (19-for-61) overall and 11.8 percent (2-for-17) from long distance. The Golden Eagles hit 23-for-29 (79.3 percent) at the line.
Milwaukee shot 42 percent (21-for-50) overall, including an even 50 percent (12-for-24) in the second half. The Panthers hit 5-for-16 (31.3 percent) from long range and went 23-for-30 (76.7 percent) at the line.
The early homestand rolls on Tuesday night as East Tennessee State visits Eblen Center for a 7 p.m. tipoff. Tickets are available at the Athletics Ticket Office in Eblen Center or by calling (931) 372-3940.