By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
BATON ROUGE, La. – A second half shooting surge by the opposing team proved enough for Southern University to defeat the Tennessee Tech men's basketball team Tuesday evening, as the Jaguars (1-3) downed the Golden Eagles (1-4) in Baton Rouge, La., 80-68.
Deadlocked at 33-33 after the first 20 minutes, Southern jumped out of the gate on a 7-0 run over the first two minutes. Tech answered promptly, dropping six straight to cut the Jaguar's lead to a single point with just under 17 minutes to play.
It would mark the closed the Golden Eagles would get the rest of the night, as Southern used a 54.2 percent shooting touch from the field and 50 percent showing from downtown – not to mention a 16-for-17 mark from the charity stripe – to keep Tech at bay.
For the game, Tech struggled from deep for the fourth time this season, hitting just 24 percent of its attempts from beyond the arc. The Golden Eagles finished shooting 39.3 percent from the field as well, but did manage to make its time at the charity stripe count, converting 85.7 percent of the time.
"That's a good bunch," head coach Steve Payne said, "but we have to find a way to finish some games. We were never sharp on offense. We took a lot of threes again and didn't knock down some wide open looks that our guys usually do. Markell [Henderson] went 1-for-7 and A.J. [Aleksa Jugovic] was 1-for-6 and those are two of our best shooters if not our best. This is a good shooting team that's not shooting well right now, and we didn't again tonight."
For the first time all season, Tech's opponent snagged more rebounds in the contest, with Southern taking the advantage of 39-34. The Golden Eagles did take advantage their opportunities at the charity stripe, firing 10-for-12 in the first half and 8-for-9 in the second.
"We were fantastic defensively," Payne explained. "A lot of what they got were contested shots that they just knocked down. This game came down to us not hitting our open shots."
Tech attempted seven more freebies over the first 20 minutes, earning a foul count of seven to Southern's 11. The tables flipped in the second half, with the Golden Eagles collecting an unprecedented 13 fouls (as opposed to the home team's eight fouls) and sending the Jags to the line 17 times.
"We've got to be able to handle adversity and keep playing," Payne continued, "and we didn't do a good job of that tonight. I thought we got some really tough foul calls and got into a little foul trouble. When you go on the road, that's what happens. But at the end of the day, you can't let a team shoot 54 and 50 percent in the second half."
Senior guard Kajon Mack led Tech with 18 points, adding five rebounds, two assists a block and three steals. Both Jugovic and Mason Ramsey tallied 11 points and five boards each, while Gonzales, La. native Ja'Cardo Hawkins posted five points and five rebounds in just 17 minutes.
The Golden Eagles will conclude their road stretch Friday evening, making a visit to Athens, Ohio to take on the Bobcats of Ohio in a 6 p.m. CT tilt.
Photo by Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information