By Rob Schabert, Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Tech used balanced scoring, critical defensive plays down the stretch and some clutch baskets to capture an exciting 81-69 Ohio Valley Conference victory over Eastern Illinois Thursday night in Eblen Center.
With the win, Tech (9-9/2-1 OVC) improved to 6-1 at home this season, and has now won nine of the last 12 games over the Panthers. Eastern Illinois (4-11/1-3 OVC) slipped to 1-7 on the road.
Senior point guard Jeremiah Samarrippas led Tech with 18 points, while grabbing four rebounds and dishing out four assists. He was one of four Golden Eagles to score in double figures, helping to overcome 51 percent shooting by EIU.
Junior Jordan Johnson added 12 points with two assists and two steals, while Dwan Caldwell added 11 points, led Tech with six rebounds, and added two assists, one block and one steal.
The fourth Golden Eagle in double figures was Josiah Moore with 10. The balance went deeper, as Shirmane Thomas and Ty Allen each netted seven, and Dennis Ogbe scored six.
Eastern Illinois was paced by Dylan Chatman with 14 points while Sherman Blanford added 11 and six rebounds. The Panthers also enjoyed balanced scoring, as Luke Piotrowski and Josh Piper had eight each, and both Reggie Smith and Alex Austin scored six.
Tech nursed a 43-36 lead at halftime, following a 20-minute back-and-forth battle in which the Golden Eagles held a lead that kept getting challenged but never erased. The first stanza was marked by good shooting on both ends of the floor. EIU shot 52 percent from the field and Tech hit a 50 percent clip, punctuated by 6-for-9 accuracy from outside the arc.
After the Panthers took an early lead and held it for more than 10 minutes, the Golden Eagles finally caught up and moved ahead with 9:17 to play in the period on a 3-pointer by Johnson. Tech slowly added to the margin until it reached nine points, 38-29, with 1:42 to play.
A 17-7 run by EIU wiped out Tech's 10-point lead in the second half and tied the contest at 59-59 with 7:30 remaining.
Samarrippas drained back-to-back 3-pointers, over the next two minutes as the Golden Eagles held a slim edge, a margin that was trimmed to one point on a 3-pointer by Piper with 5:13 to play to make it 65-64.
Moore hit a layup and Caldwell's crucial tip-in with 3:50 remaining pushed Tech to a five-point lead, and Tech went 8-for-8 at the line in the final 1:24 to hold on.
The first of three consecutive home conference contests, the Golden Eagles will host SIU Edwardsville Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the nightcap of a doubleheader in Eblen Center. Saturday's game is White and Cumberland Counties Night, with residents of those two counties able to purchase individual game tickets for one dollar each.
For additional information, please call the Athletic Ticket Office in Eblen Center at 931-372-3940.