By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – An historic start to the night paced the Tennessee Tech men's basketball team to a huge home victory Monday, as the Golden Eagles defeated Reinhardt University by a final score of 86-47.
The purple and gold went bananas to open the contest in the Hooper Eblen Center, sinking nine of its first 10 shots from the field to work up a monster 20-0 lead over the first four-and-a-half minutes. It was junior Larry Kuimi, one of three stars of the night, leading the charge early by scoring five of the team's first seven baskets.
The forward eclipsed his season-high for scoring in the opening four minutes, posting 10 of the team's first 15 points. Kuimi finished the contest with 12 points on 6-for-9 shooting and six rebounds.
Defensively, the Golden Eagles were dominant, particularly in the first half when they held the visiting Eagles to just 20 points and none from inside the paint. Tech collected 18 of its 44 first-half points in the block while owning the glass with a distinct advantage of 27-13.
Reinhardt struggled to find the bottom of the net all night, hitting on just seven of its first 30 tries. For the game, the visitors connected on just 19-of-63 attempts (30.2 percent) and 8-of-27 from 3-point range (29.6 percent).
Overall, Tech hauled in 49 rebounds to the Eagles 30 and dished out 23 assists with eight steals and six blocks.
Tech hits at 51.5 percent from the field and drained 11-of-27 blasts from downtown at a 40.7 percent clip. It was a senior stealing the show that helped contribute to the huge offensive night for the young Golden Eagle squad.
Making his first career start, local Sparta native Cade Crosland erupted for a career-high and game-leading 17 points on his way to Special Olympics Player of the Game honors. The guard played nearly 24 minutes, accounting for two rebounds, two steals and zero turnovers. He drilled a career-high five of his 10 shots from beyond the arc and even, to his own account, attempted a dunk.
A little cool to start the night – Crosland was just 1-for-4 from deep in the first half – the three-year veteran and former walk-on splashed down four triples over the final 20 minutes, including about a 27-footer with a minute to play to end his impressive night with an exclamation point.
Sophomore guard Jr. Clay flirted with a triple-double on the night, distributing six assists to just three turnovers, scoring 15 points on 6-for-10 shooting, and corralling a game-high eight rebounds. The Chattanooga native enjoyed his third strong showing in-a-row after racking up nine dimes at Winthrop and dropping 17 points at home against Lipscomb in his previous two games.
In limited action, sophomore forward Amadou Sylla was efficient to the tune of 4-for-5 from the floor and nine points. He drew five fouls in the contest, with four boards, two assists and a steal. Rounding out the starting lineup, sophomore Hunter Vick led the team in plus/minus at an impressive +40. He turned in nine points, three rebounds and five assists.
Redshirt freshman Reece Wilkinson rejected a season-high three shots while scoring seven points and snagging three boards. Sophomore guard Jared Sherfield also registered seven on the scoreboard while securing four misses off the glass.
The Golden Eagles will return to action Sunday, Dec. 8 with a road trip to Athens, Ohio and a match-up against the Bobcats of Ohio University. Tip is scheduled for a 1:00 p.m. CT start in the 13,000-seat Convocation Center.
Season tickets for Tennessee Tech basketball are on sale now. Call (931) 372-3940, visit the Hooper Eblen Center ticket office, or log on to TTUSports.com to order yours today.
Photo by Thomas Corhern