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Scrappy Golden Eagles battle to wire before falling to Colonels, 85-80

RICHMOND, Ky. - Add this one to the list of the classic basketball games in the Ohio Valley Conference lore.

Eastern Kentucky's long-range bombers against a gritty, gutsy, fighting, scrapping effort from Tennessee Tech.

The Golden Eagles were bombed out of the gym - out of the city, practically - and fell behind 20-6 in the opening minutes. But coach Mike Sutton's team took it down to the wire before falling, 85-80, in McBrayer Arena.

Credit goes to the Colonels (9-7/3-3 OVC), who found an answer after initially collapsing under the weight of Tech's ferocious comeback. EKU stayed out front just enough throughout a hectic second half, and hit free throws when needed, to pull out the victory.

Credit also goes to Tennessee Tech (8-7/2-3 OVC), which just simply would not quit. Tech battled inside and outside, and made tough plays in a tough environment.

Frank Davis tied the school record - for the second time this season - by making six consecutive 3-pointers. He finished with a career-best 24 points to led Tech, He was 7-for-12 from outside the stripe. Tech also got double figure scoring from Will Barnes with 11 and Bassey Inameti, who tied his career-high with 10 points. Freshman Kevin Murphy also tied a career-high by leading Tech with seven assists. Nine different players scored for Tech

EKU, which ranks fourth in the nation in 3-pointers made per game, canned a dozen from outside the arc, led by freshman Joshua Jones with four on his way to 25 points, and Josh Taylor, who nailed three treys and finished with 13 points. Mike Rose, the team's leading scorer, added 18 points and Justin Stommes scored 12.

All that action, and the game was settled when the clock was stopped as EKU made nine of 10 free throws in the final minute to hang on.

Eastern Kentucky could do no wrong in the first 10 minutes, and rolled out to a 20-6 lead as the Golden Eagles got few chances to score against a stifling EKU zone defense.

But Tech found a way, getting a couple of thunderous dunks by DJ Linday and three consecutive 3-pointers by Frank Davis to outscore the Colonels 24-6 and take a 30-29 lead. Will Barnes capped the run with a dunk and a free throw for a three-point play and Tech's first lead of the game in the final minutes.

The Colonels regained the lead at halftime, 32-30, on a 3-pointer by Josh Taylor with four seconds to go.

The Golden Eagles surged back on top, 69-67, with 5:20 remaining on a 3-pointer by Elijah Muhammad, but Taylor came back with a three-point play seconds later that lifted EKU to a 70-69 lead.

That keyed a 9-0 run by the Colonels, as Rose and Taylor drained back-to-back 3-pointers, to make it a 76-69 EKU lead.

Will Barnes hit a pair of 3-pointers in the final minute to keep Tech in the fight, but the Colonels went 9-for-10 over the final 1:28 to ice it. Two free tosses by Jones with five seconds left made it 85-77 before Davis banked in his final 3-pointer at the buzzer for the final margin.

Tech had a 28-27 edge in rebounds, and had 20 assists and only 13 turnovers. The Golden Eagles shot exactly 50 percent (31-for-62) from the field, and hit 11-for-31 from long range.

Eastern Kentucky shot 54.9 percent (28-for-51) from the field and was 12-for-26 from long range. EKU had a huge edge at the free throw line. Tech was 7-for-9 while the Colonels went 17-for-21.

The next game for the Golden Eagles will put Tech in the national spotlight as ESPNU televises the contest Thursday night in Eblen Center against UT Martin. Tipoff is at 8 p.m.

Tickets are available at the Athletic Ticket Office in Eblen Center, which is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to noon, and from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Tickets may also be ordered on the Tech Athletics website (TTUsports.com) or on the telephone by calling 931-372-3940.