Golden Eagles survive scare, turn back Utah Valley, 74-71

Golden Eagles survive scare, turn back Utah Valley, 74-71

By Rob Schabert, Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Informatio

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Senior point guard Jeremiah Samarrippas scored 20 points, including a crucial 3-pointer with three minutes remaining to tie the game, and Tennessee Tech used that to propel the Golden Eagles to a 74-71 victory over visiting Utah Valley University Saturday night in Eblen Center.

Samarrippas was 7-for-9 from the field including 4-for-5 from outside the arc, and added five assists to lead all players in both categories. He also made his only two free throws with 46 seconds to play that proved the game-winners.

Junior Dwan Caldwell scored a career-high with 18 points, shooting 6-for-9 and grabbing a game-best seven rebounds. Tech (5-4) also got a career-high effort from junior Jordan Johnson with 11 points, going 4-for-5 from the field including all three of his 3-point tries.

Utah Valley (2-4) put four players in double figures, led by Hayes Garrity with 18 points. Mitch Bruneel added 16 points. Keawe Enos scored 13 and Zach Nelson netted 11.

Tech shot 53.2 percent overall and a season-high 57.1 percent (8-for-14) from long range. Tech was 4-for-7 from outside the arc in each half.

The Wolverines shot 52.2 percent overall and held a 26-25 edge in rebounds, tipping the balance with a 17-10 margin in the second half.

After Tech held a lead the entire 20 minutes of the first half, Utah Valley kept it close in the second half and tied the contest five times before forging a three-point lead, 67-64, on a jumper by Garrity and a layup from Enos with 3:15 remaining.

 It was the largest lead of the night for the Wolverines, and Samarrippas didn't let it last long. He dropped in a 3-pointer with 3:03 to play to tie the game for the sixth time.

Two free throws by Bruneel put UVU ahead, 69-67, before Caldwell powered into the paint and scored a three-point play for a 70-69 Golden Eagle lead.

A give-and-go from Ben Aird handed Bruneel a layup with 54 seconds to play and the Wolverines were up, 71-70.

At the other end, Samarrippas drew a foul as he drove the lane, and hit both of his free throws for a 72-71 Tech lead.

Tech's defense forced a missed shot and Ladon Carter snapped down the defensive rebound, and pushed the ball to Shirmane Thomas, who was fouled immediately at midcourt.

He made his first charity toss, then waited out a UVU timeout before hitting his second for a 74-71 lead.

The Wolverines worked the ball to Nelson for a contested 3-pointer that missed, and Holton Hunsaker's second 3-point try came just after the buzzer.

Back-to-back 3-pointers by Samarrippas pushed Tech into a 10-point lead midway in the first half, and the Golden Eagles were on top by 11 points on three different occasions during the first 15 minutes.

Utah Valley began to chip away at the difference over the final five minutes of the half, getting a pair of 3-pointers from Bruneel to pull within six. A layup with one second left by Nelson brought the Wolverines all the way back to within four at halftime, 36-32.

At the break, Samarrippas (13) and Caldwell (11) had accounted for 24 of Tech's 36 points. Tech Shot 54.5 percent in the opening half and held a 15-9 edge in rebounds.

Their four-game homestand complete, the Golden Eagles now take on a four-game road swing, and play seven of their next eight away from home. The road stretch begins Thursday night with a 7p.m. CT contest at Lipscomb in Nashville. On Saturday, Tech heads the opposite direction on I-40 with an 11 a.m. CT game at Tennessee in Knoxville.