By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
GREENVILLE, S.C. – For just the second time in the 2017-18 season, the Tennessee Tech men's basketball team found defeat rather than victory Saturday afternoon, falling on the road to Furman, 64-50.
The Golden Eagles (7-2) and Paladins (5-3) found themselves in defensive struggle during the contest, with the biggest difference-maker coming from beyond the 3-point line. Furman held a Tech offense averaging 89.0 points per game enter the contest to just 33.3 percent (20-of-60) shooting from the field, 10.5 percent (2-of-19) from 3-point range and 50 percent (8-of-16) from the charity stripe.
On the flip side, Tech held Furman to just 34.4 percent from the floor, 27.8 percent from deep and 66.7 percent from the free throw line. It just so happened that the home team attempted a whopping 36 shots from beyond the arc, over half of the team's field goal attempts in the game.
"I'm super proud of guys with how hard they fought," Tech head coach Steve Payne said. "I thought they really competed and tried hard all night. If the ball would have gone in, it's a different game and maybe we win anyway with the turnovers and lack of rebounding. Today we played a good team and we missed a lot of shots. We've been preaching to our guys, this is what is going to cost us games against good teams and it cost us today."
Furman outhit Tech from downtown, 10-2, easily accounting for the difference on the scoreboard, particularly in the first half, when the Paladins took a 32-19 lead into the break after hitting 6-of-18 attempts from deep.
After Furman extend the lead to 36-19, Tech ran off 10 straight points to cut the advantage to just seven with 17:26 to play following a four-point play by senior Aleksa Jugovic. Furman answered with five quick points to push the advantage back to double digits for good.
"We had their lead down to seven and were on a good run there to open the second half with a chance to make it interesting, and every time we'd try and cut it closer, we'd give up an offensive rebound," Payne explained. "I'm a little frustrated with our guys because of that. Our offensive execution wasn't very good, but we had plenty of open shots. We just didn't make any of them. We're not going to be 2-for-19 from 3-point range very often. We'll get back to being Tennessee Tech, but it was just a frustrating day for our guys and as coaches with our failure to execute the things we usually do."
Despite driving the ball into contact throughout the game, the Golden Eagles couldn't pull in the same amount of foul calls they managed against Lipscomb, attempting just 16 free throws compared to the 49 from Wednesday's contest against the Bisons.
"There were very few fouls called in the post and there was a lot of banging and beating down there, so we had trouble getting our rhythm together inside. When you can score down on the block and in the paint, it puts pressure on the other team's defense. And we didn't do that today. We held a very good offensive team to 34 percent shooting and played super hard defensively. The problem was we gave up 15 offensive boards, turned the ball over 16 times and went 8-of-16 from the free throw line. Everything you have to do well to win when you're not shooting the ball well, we didn't do."
Jugovic and junior Courtney Alexander II led Tech with 11 points each. Jugovic added a team-high six assists on the day while Alexander narrowly missed a double-double, hauling in nine rebounds to tie for the team lead with graduate guard Kajon Mack. Furman was led by John Davis, with a game-high 16 points, and Matt Rafferty, with a game-high 14 rebounds.
The Golden Eagles will continue their three-game road swing and stretch of 6-of-7 games away from the Eblen Center Wednesday, Dec. 6 by traveling to Ohio for a 6 p.m. CT tilt against Dayton.
Photo by Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information