Big second half lifts Oakland past Golden Eagles, 77-56

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Tech’s first action on its home court didn’t go quite the way coach Mike Sutton had hoped it would.

A 14-0 run midway in the second half pushed visiting Oakland University on its way to a 77-56 victory over the Golden Eagles Monday night in a Hall of Fame Showcase contest in Eblen Center.

The Golden Eagles (2-3) tried to battle back into the contest with a late rally, but the Grizzlies (2-2) not only withstood the challenge with some clutch 3-point shooting, but added to their lead over the final five minutes.

The final 21-point margin was the largest difference in the contest.

The game was Tech’s home opener following four games on the road to get the 2009-2010 season underway.

Derrick Nelson led all scorers with 20 points and grabbed seven rebounds while Keith Benson added a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Point guard Jonathan Jones, the Summit League’s preseason Player of the Year, had 14 points, five rebounds and five assists.

Sophomore Kevin Murphy topped Tech with 15 points and grabbed six rebounds, while junior Alfred Jones had 12 points and seven rebounds.

It was Tech’s third of four games in the Hall of Fame Showcase. Tech split its first two Showcase games, beating Central Arkansas before falling at Memphis.

The score was tied five times in the first half. Tech’s only advantage during the first 20 minutes was a couple of two-point leads in the first five minutes. Otherwise, the Grizzlies maintained a lead that grew to as many as eight points with 6:04 left in the period on a layup by Nelson.

The Golden Eagles stormed onto the floor to open the second half, quickly wiping out a five-point halftime deficit to tie the game with a 6-1 run. Layups by Alfred Jones and Kevin Murphy made it a 10-1 run and Tech had its largest lead of the game at 43-39.

But Oakland, the overwhelming preseason favorite to win the Summit Conference after posting 23 wins last year, took a page from the Golden Eagle playbook. The Grizzlies used the transition game to bounce back with a 14-0 run and regain the lead. A 3-pointer by Cushingberry with 10 minutes remaining made it 55-45.

Oakland’s margin was double digits the balance of the contest.

The Golden Eagles shot 38.7 percent from the field, dropping from 47 percent in the first half to 31.3 percent in the second. Tech managed just two 3-pointers, going 2-for-12. Tech shot 42.9 percent (6-for-14) at the free throw line.

Oakland hit 38 percent in the first half and 44 percent in the second, finishing with a game mark of 41.4 percent. The Grizzlies were 8-for-21 (38.1 percent) from long range and hit 70 percent (21-for-30) at the charity line.

The Grizzlies held a 45-37 edge in rebounds.

Tech hits the road for its next two contests, playing first at Southern Utah Wednesday night with an 8 p.m. tipoff. After Thanksgiving, the Golden Eagles visit No. 1 Kansas on Friday night with a 7 p.m. start. That game can be seen on ESPN Full Court.

Tech’s next home date is Tuesday (Dec. 1) when the Evansville Purple Aces invade Eblen Center at 7 p.m.

Season and individual game tickets are on sale at the Athletics Ticket Office in Eblen Center or by calling (931) 372-3940. Tickets may also be ordered online at TTUsports.com.

NOTES: Oakland is the second conference pick on the Golden Eagle schedule in a week after the Tech downed A-Sun favorite Lipscomb last week…Tech will face its third league favorite Friday when it plays at Kansas State, ranked No. 1 nationally and picked to capture the Big 12 conference crown.