By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. – The Tennessee Tech men's basketball team simply ran out of time Tuesday evening, as a ferocious comeback bid by the Golden Eagles (7-12, 3-1) nearly erased a 20-point deficit against Southeast Missouri (7-12, 2-2) in what turned out to be a tough, 83-78 loss.
The Redhawks looked quite comfortable in the Show Me Center in the first half against the Golden Eagles, building up a 12-point halftime advantage while shooting over 60 percent from the field. Tech struggled with ball control early, entering the break with 11 turnovers.
While the Golden Eagles cleaned things up at the point of attack, Southeast Missouri continued to make shot after shot. Junior Mason Ramsey, who tallied just three first-half points, kept pace with the Redhawk offense for the first seven minutes of the period, hitting four of Tech's first five shots.
SEMO looked ready to pull away for good, hitting a few triples and a couple of free throws to push its lead to a game-high 20 points with 10:18 left on the clock.
Fittingly, Ramsey answered for the Golden Eagles, following up a Redhawk 3-pointer with a three-point play the old-fashioned way. His grit sparked a torrid effort by Tech on the defensive side of the ball, forcing seven SEMO turnovers over the final nine and half minutes.
After Southeast Missouri boosted its advantage back to 16 with 6:26 to play, the Golden Eagles showed its toughness and tenacity, unleashing a 12-0 run behind a triple from Kajon Mack, a three-point play from Savonte Frazier and a four-point play by Aleksa Jugovic, not to mention a couple of big free throws from Stephaun Adams.
The Redhawks made just a single field goal over the final six and half minutes of the contest, keeping itself from coughing up the lead by making free throws. Tech closed to as close as two points with just under two minutes to play, with Mack hitting a monster trey from the corner. SEMO made each of its final 10 attempts from the charity stripe to close things out.
Southeast senior Antonius Cleveland was nearly perfect on the night, hitting all nine of his attempts from the field and six of his seven attempts from the line. He tallied a game-high 24 points.
For the second straight game, Ramsey posted 19 points, tying his career-high set against Murray State Saturday evening. In addition to leading Tech in scoring, the Livingston, Tenn. native posted team-high with six rebounds and four steals.
Despite an off-night shooting the ball, Jugovic grinded out 12 points for Tech in 36 hard-fought minutes. Mack tallied 14 points on 5-for-7 shooting while being limited to 21 minutes of action due to early foul trouble in both halves. Frazier came off the bench to chip in 10 points, three rebounds and three assists.
As a team, Tech forced 20 total Redhawk turnovers while making zero, yes zero, of its own in the second half. The Golden Eagles finished with nine steals, but the red-hot shooting effort by the home team proved too much to overcome. SEMO finished the contest shooting 60.5 percent from the field and 83.3 percent from the free throw line.
The Golden Eagles will return to Cookeville Saturday evening for a 7:30 p.m. CT showdown against Ohio Valley Conference West Division rival Jacksonville State.
Photo by Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information