COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Welcome to the Ohio Valley Conference,
Welcome to the record books, Frank Davis.
And, welcome back to the win column, Golden Eagles.
On a night when Davis was recognized for breaking the school record for most career 3-pointers, the senior from Gainesville, Ga., led Tennessee Tech with 25 points on the way to a 94-90 victory over arch-rival Austin Peay Thursday night in the Eblen Center.
Dillard, a freshman from Riverdale, Ga., (photo at right) was 11-for-12 from the field on his way to a career-high 23 points and six rebounds to help the home cause in front of 2,591 noisy fans, Tech’s largest home crowd of the year.
Tech was helped by a balanced offensive attack with five players in double figures. In addition to Davis and Dillard, Alfred Jones contributed a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds, Elijah Muhammad had 12 points, eight rebounds and four assists, and Kevin Murphy finished with 11. Freshman Terrell Barnes chipped in with nine points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Justin Blake led Austin Peay with a career-high 20 points, one of four Govs in double digits. Anthony Campbell had 19 points and six rebounds, Wes Channels 16 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals, and Tyrone Caldwell 16 points.
Tech improved to 9-10 overall and 3-5 in the league, winning its first conference game at home. Austin Peay’s record leveled out at 10-10 overall and 4-4 in the OVC.
The win wasn’t without drama as Austin Peay fought back from a 13-point deficit in the final three minutes to pull within three at 90-87 with 18 seconds remaining.
Davis canned two free throws with 15.5 seconds left to make it 92-87 and Caldwell was fouled attempting a 3-pointer with 9.8 seconds. He made one of his three free throws, slicing Tech’s lead to 92-88. Muhammad made both charity tosses to get Tech’s lead back to 94-88, before an APSU tip-in at the buzzer finished the scoring.
Nothing at the start of the game foreshadowed what was to come, as the Governors roared out to a commanding early lead. APSU was on top by nine, 11-2, in the first three minutes, and the lead reached double figures at 22-11 with eight minutes elapsed.
The Govs maintained a double-digit advantage for five minutes before Tech began to whittle away on back-to-back baskets by Jones. Davis scored six of Tech’s final eight points in the half as the Golden Eagles clawed their way back to within 44-43 at the break.
The contest saw four ties early in the second half before Tech jumped on top to stay with a 3-pointer by Davis with 13:01 remaining to make it 56-53. Tech nursed a small lead for several minutes, eventually taking it to double digits with five minutes left. Tech’s largest lead was 13, the final time at 87-74 with 2:52 remaining.
The Govs ralied with a 13-3 run, including 3-pointers by Blake and Channels, and when Blake hit a layup with 18 seconds to go it was 90-87.
Tech shot 55.6 percent from the field (35-for-63) and held as 41-34 advantage on the boards. Austin Peay countered with 53.1 percent shooting accuracy, including 44.4 percent (12-for-27) from long distance.
The Golden Eagles will face another stiff test Saturday night when Tennessee State visits for an OVC doubleheader, with the women’s game starting at 5:30 p.m. and the men’s to follow at 7:30 p.m.
For tickets, call (931) 372-3940, visit the Athletics Ticket Office in Eblen Center, or order seats online at TTUsports.com.
Photo above: Frank Davis, second from left, receives a plaque recognizing his school record for most career 3-pointers. He's joined at center court by, from left, Director of Athletics Mark Wilson, Head Coach Mike Sutton, and University President Dr. Bob Bell