By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
MOREHEAD, Ky. – Shooting was the key to the contest Thursday evening, as the Tennessee Tech men's basketball team (6-14, 2-5) struggled to get the offense going against Ohio Valley Conference rival Morehead State (8-12, 4-3) in Johnson Arena, falling to the Eagles 67-61.
Tech won the battle on the glass, dominating the offensive boards in the second half to the tune of an 11-2 advantage. For the contest, Tech snagged 42 rebounds with 17 coming on the offensive end while Morehead collected 35.
The Golden Eagles showed improvement in the turnover department, making just 12 on the night. Even Tech's free-throw shooting, the team's Achilles' heel in many games this season, was better than its opponent, with the Golden Eagles sinking 11-of-15 tries at the line.
The difference in the contest was shooting. The shots just wouldn't fall with consistency for the Golden Eagles, who were held to 33.8 percent from the floor and 28.6 percent from downtown on the night. Morehead State managed 43.1 percent from the field and 41.2 percent from 3-point range and earned nine more trips to the line to account for the six-point difference.
The Eagles jumped out to as much as a 16-point advantage in the second half, but the Golden Eagles never quit and just chipped away bit-by-bit at the deficit. Tech's patience took that Morehead State lead down to as low as four points on three separate occasions and with as little as 15 seconds to play.
Morehead hit just enough free throws down the stretch, however, defeating the Golden Eagles in the first of two match-ups this year. The two teams will square off in Cookeville on Saturday, Feb. 23 in Tech's final home contest of the regular season.
Making his first start since Jan. 10, after missing two games with an injury and coming off the bench in his return last Saturday, true freshman Jr. Clay put together his best performance in the purple and gold. The point guard led scorers with a career-high 26 points, hitting 9-of-19 shots, including a season-best three triples. He also dished out five assists with just one turnover and made two steals in a career-high 39 minutes.
Clay's 26 points represented the most by a Tech freshman since Jason Harrell dropped 27 against Eastern Kentucky on Jan. 4, 2001.
Micaiah Henry also finished in double figures, scoring 12 points on 5-for-10 shooting from the floor. He added six rebounds and two blocks, giving him 95 for his career. Henry needs just four to pass Bassey Inameti to move into fifth place all-time in school history. Courtney Alexander II hauled in a team-high 11 rebounds and finished 4-for-6 from the charity stripe.
Tech will return to action Saturday evening, taking on Eastern Kentucky in a different site than normal. Because of a scheduling conflict with the Colonel's gym, the two OVC rivals will face off at Georgetown (Ky.) College in a 6:00 p.m. CT tilt.
Photos by Thomas Corhern