By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – A late rally propelled the Tennessee Tech men's basketball team to its first road victory of the 2016-17 campaign Saturday evening, as the Golden Eagles (3-6) rallied from a nine-point deficit for a 79-74 win against Alabama A&M (0-7).
The Bulldogs controlled the scoreboard much of the second half, but the Golden Eagles scratched and clawed its way back to force a stalemate with just under four minutes to play. Junior Mason Ramsey was a huge spark in the rally, jumping a pass for a steal and drawing a flagrant foul on the layup attempt on the other end of the floor.
Coming out of the media break, Ramsey knocked down one of two freebies to give Tech its first lead since the first half. Then, with a 68-67 advantage and just over two minutes showing on the scoreboard, the big man drew a major foul in the paint while knocking down an acrobatic hook shot. He hit the ensuing free throw to put the Golden Eagles up 71-67.
Both sides battled, but the Bulldogs once again pulled to within a single point before Aleksa Jugovic came up with a cold-blooded play. Up one with the clock nearing the one-minute mark, the junior recognized just enough space between himself and his defender and pulled up from three feet beyond the arc for a monster 3-pointer.
Once again, the home team had an answer, with Rakiya Battle knocking down a contested layup and drawing a foul for a chance at a crucial 3-point play. He hit the following free throw and with 46.3 seconds to play, Tech held a slim 75-74 lead.
No matter. The Golden Eagles simply weren't willing to lose this one. With 29.9 second glowing above on the scoreboard, senior Kajon Mack found himself with a slight opening from downtown and did not hesitate. The Tulane transfer buried the triple to once more provide Tech a four-point advantage, 78-74.
Mack visited the free throw line with 17.6 seconds to play after an Alabama A&M turnover, knocking down one of his two attempts. The Bulldogs tried to get off a 3-pointer on its next possession, but the Golden Eagle defense smothered the attempt and the ball bounced off the side of the rim and safely into the hands of Tech.
Jugovic dribbled out the final seconds in peace, providing the Golden Eagles with a valuable road victory.
On the night, Jugovic led the scoring effort with 21, his fourth consecutive 20-point outing. Senior Hakeem Rogers posted a season-high 15 points, hitting four big triples in the first half to help the Golden Eagles keep pace early.
Mason Ramsey tallied 13 points, proving key down the stretch with several big buckets and free throws. Courtney Alexander II also proved effective in the paint for the visitors, scoring 10 points on 4-for-6 shooting.
The Golden Eagles will get the briefest of breaks between their win Saturday night and their next match-up, making the bus trip back home to Cookeville for a Sunday contest against Crowley's Ridge. Tech will host the Pioneers in a 4 p.m. CT affair as part of a doubleheader with the Tech women's team.
Photo by Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information