COOKVEILLE, Tenn. -- The iconic television show "Survivor" has been to many exotic locations, from Borneo to Fiji to Samoa. Call this one Survivor: Eblen Center.
What could have been a rout in either direction turned into a battle of nerves and a test of will as Tennessee Tech remained unbeaten in Ohio Valley Conference play with a nail-biting, crowd-pleasing, 80-77 victory over Tennessee State.
Tech (9-7/3-0 OVC) led by as many as 14 points in the opening seven minutes after a 17-0 run. The Tigers (5-9/1-2 OVC) fought their way back and went up by nine to begin the second half with a 13-0 run.
Once those runs were finished, the fight turned into a thriller.
Guard Diamond Henderson drained two of the biggest baskets of the night, back-to-back 3-pointers with about four minutes to play that allowed the hosts to get the upper hand and coach Jim Davis' team held on for the win.
Henderson finished the night with 24 points, including 5-for-6 accuracy from long range, to lead Tech and pace all scorers. Jala Harris added 20. Tech also got nine points and seven rebounds from Molly Heady and eight rebounds from T'Keyah Williams.
TSU was led by Jasmin Shuler with 17 points. Chelsea Hudson added 11 points and nine rebounds while Simone Hope had 10 points and seven rebounds as the Tigers claimed a 42-34 advantage in rebounds, including 29-14 edge in the second half.
Down 6-3 after two minutes, Tech went on a scoring binge that counted points from four different players. Katherine Barker ignited the 19-2 run that included seven from Harris and five from Heady. It left Tech with a 20-6 lead with 13:18 to play in the half.
Tennessee State found a combination that worked, forcing some missed shots and five turnovers during a six-minute span, and six different players contributed points in a 17-6 streak that brought the Tigers back within a basket, 29-27, with 5:35 to play.
The Golden Eagles led by six a couple more times in the half before heading to the break with a 39-35 advantage. Tech shot 55.6 percent in the first half, including 5-for-11 from long distance, and had a 20-13 margin on the glass. TSU shot 38.2 percent in the opening 20 minutes but was a perfect 7-for-7 at the free throw line.
Hope scored the first basket of the second half and TSU didn't stop until it had run together a 13-0 stretch and grabbed a 48-39 lead. Shuler notched five in the run and Hope had four, including the first and last baskets.
Tech's comeback included a 3-pointer by Henderson with 9:58 remaining that lifted the Golden Eagles back into the lead, 57-56.
From there, the score was tied three more times before back-to-back 3-pointers by Henderson gave the Golden Eagles a 71-66 lead with 4:24 remaining.
Tech made seven of eight free throws in the final 3:03 to hold off a late push by the Tigers before a 3-pointer by TSU's Brianna Lawrence with one second left made it a three-point final.
The Golden Eagles take to the highway this weekend for their next two contests, facing SIUE on Saturday at 4 p.m. and Eastern Illinois Monday at 7 p.m. in OVC action.