By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – In a game that featured as much as a 27-point swing, the Tennessee Tech men's basketball team finished just short in its comeback bid against Furman Monday evening, falling to the Paladins (7-5), 68-62.
The Golden Eagles (4-10) torched the nets early in the contest, sinking five of their first six shots over the game's opening five minutes to take a 14-4 advantage and force Furman to call a timeout. Tech's offense cooled from that point on as the stingy Paladin defense allowed just 14 more points by the home squad the rest of the half.
Furman erased its 10-point deficit over the final 15 minutes of the period, using a 50 percent shooting touch to head into the break with a two-point advantage. The visitor's lead would rise to as much as 17 points with just over eight minutes to play in the second half.
Proving its resiliency, the Golden Eagles mounted yet another late comeback attempt. Behind steady free throw shooting – the team finished 18-of-22 from the charity stripe on the night – and a couple of clutch 3-point makes, Tech drummed up a 20-7 run.
Senior guard Hakeem Rogers capped the run, drilling a triple with 39 seconds to play to cut the lead down to a single bucket, 65-62. Pressing on defense, junior Mason Ramsey came up with a huge steal near midcourt and found Rogers near the Golden Eagle 3-point line.
Rogers' attempt just rimmed out with the chance to tie the ball game and Furman came away with the rebound before drawing a foul and hitting enough shots down the stretch to take the game.
The Paladins' Devin Sibley led all scorers with 21 points while Rogers tallied a Golden Eagle-high 19. He added four rebounds for Tech as well.
Junior Curtis Phillips Jr. matched his season-high set two nights prior with 13 points, finishing 6-for-10 from the field in 31 minutes of action. Kajon Mack filled the stat sheets with a healthy 11 points and team-highs of six rebounds and five assists.
After finishing 5-for-5 from the charity stripe, Aleksa Jugovic upped his streak of consecutive made free throws to 22 over the past six games. He tallied 10 points while also knocking down a 3-pointer in his 11th straight game.
The Golden Eagles will conclude their non-conference schedule with a trip to Oxford, Ohio Thursday evening. Tech will face off against Miami (Ohio) in a 6 p.m. CT tilt before returning to Cookeville to kick off Ohio Valley Conference play on Jan. 5 against in-state rival Austin Peay.
Photo by Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information