On to the OVC semifinals: Murphy's buzzer-beater sinks APSU

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – After Austin Peay's Anthony Campbell tied the game at 65 with six seconds remaining Tech's Kevin Murphy took the ball the length of the court and sunk a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to lift the Tennessee Tech men's basketball team to a 68-65 over Austin Peay in the Dunn Center in the opening round of the OVC Tournament. The Golden Eagles advance to the OVC semi-finals to take on Morehead State on Friday at 8:00 p.m. on ESPNU.

“In those situations coach just wants us to play it out,” Murphy said. “We work on those things in practice and I was just looking to get to the hole, but they left me open for the three so I took it. It was my first buzzer-beater and it felt good. Their fans were all over us all night so it was nice to quiet them at the end.”

Elijah Muhammad gave Tech its slim 65-62 lead on a layup with 24 seconds to play. On APSU’s ensuing possession Campbell missed a 3-point attempt with 13 seconds left. But he was able to corral his own rebound and bury his second attempt to tie the game at 65 with just six seconds to play.

The game went back-and-fourth throughout as there were four ties and six lead changes, but Tech never led by more than five points. The Golden Eagles owned the glass with a 33-23 rebounding advantage, including a 12-4 advantage on the offensive side which led to 10 second-chance points. Tech scored 36 of its 68 points in the paint.

Murphy and Alfred Jones paced the Golden Eagles with 18 points each. Murphy hit 8-of-16 shots from the field and also finished with four rebounds, two assists and two steals. Jones hit 9-of-11 shots, collected four rebounds and blocked two shots.

Muhammad finished the game with nine points, nine rebounds and four assists, while Frank Davis had nine points and four assists as well. Zach Bailey finished with three points, hitting a clutch 3-pointer that put Tech up 61-57 with three and a half minutes to play that silenced a would-be Austin Peay run that nearly erased a five-point Tech advantage.

“Tonight different guys stepped up for us, and it was a full team effort,” TTU head coach Mike Sutton said. “We need everybody to click all the time, and that’s what we got out of our guys tonight.”

After shooting 38.5 percent in the first half, the Golden Eagles connected on 65.5 percent (19-of-29) shots in the second half and shot 52.7 percent for the game. The Golden Eagles struggled from the free-throw line, connecting on just 4-of-13 attempts from the line. Austin Peay shot 53.7 percent from the field for the game, and 55.6 percent (5-of-9) from 3-point distance.

Austin Peay built its largest lead of the game, a 41-33 advantage, with just over 13 minutes to play, but Tech would chip away before going on a 12-2 run to take a 54-49 lead with seven minutes to play.

The meeting was the third of the season between the Golden Eagles and Govs, and all three came down to the wire. Tech topped APSU 94-90 in Cookeville in January. When the teams met for the second time it was Austin Peay erasing a late deficit to force overtime and steal a 77-72 win.

Tech is the only road team to win an opening round game in this year’s OVC Tournament, and advances to the semi-finals in Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena (formerly the Sommet Center) along with No. 1 seeded Murray State, No. 2 Morehead State and No. 4 Eastern Illinois. Both semi-final games will be broadcast live on ESPNU beginning with Murray State vs. Eastern Illinois at 6 p.m. on March 5, and followed by Tech vs. Morehead State at 8 p.m. The OVC Championship game will be March 6 on ESPN 2.

“When we played at Morehead State I thought we had tremendous effort,” Sutton said. “And when they came to our place I thought we looked good for 25 or 30 minutes, but not the whole game. It’s going to take another great effort from our guys in that game.”

The Golden Eagles advance to their first OVC semi-finals since 2006. Tech eliminated Austin Peay in the first round of the tournament that year as well before falling to Samford.

Tickets for the semifinals and finals are on sale at the Athletics Ticket Office in Eblen Center until noon Thursday. Tickets may also be ordered online at TTUsports.com. The cost of the tickets is $20 each per session.

Tech students may purchase tickets for $5 per session with a valid ID. Student tickets will also be on sale at the Eblen Center until noon Thursday, or can be purchased at the Bridgestone Arena on the day of each game with a valid TTU ID.

Tech fans are invited to gather for a pregame celebration, sponsored by TTU Alumni Relations. The event will take place Friday afternoon at the Big River Grille, located on Broadway Avenue in Nashville. Times and additional details will be announced Wednesday.