RICHMOND, Ky. – High voltage and high intensity led to high drama Saturday night, until Tennessee Tech finally turned out the lights on Eastern Kentucky.
Tech's uptempo, fast-paced play helped the Golden Eagles generate a commanding edge in rebounds and sparked a 64 percent shooting mark, a combination that led to a 78-66 Ohio Valley Conference victory on the road at Eastern Kentucky Saturday night.
With the win, Tech salvaged an important split in their two-game conference swing through Kentucky's infamous "Death Valley" to Morehead State and EKU. It left Tech with a 7-7 overall record and a 3-2 mark in the league. EKU dropped to 7-9 overall and 2-4 in the conference.
Tech was 27-for-42 from the field for 64.3 percent accuracy, including seven 3-pointers in 12 tries, a 58.3 percent mark from outside the arc. The Golden Eagles were 17-for-20 at the line for 85 percent. All three were season-high marks for Tech.
The Golden Eagles also owned a 29-16 advantage on the glass.
The game showcased a distinct difference in styles between the two squads. Tech worked at speeding things up and creating transition scoring chances, while EKU relied heavily on long-range shooting.
When the Colonels' normally accurate shooters couldn't find the range during the middle portion of the game, the Golden Eagles took advantage to build a lead that grew to as many as 14 points midway in the second half. That came with 11:49 remaining when Dillard took a feed from Swansey and made a layup to put Tech on top 53-39.
Then, when EKU matched Tech's energy and zeroed in on the basket late in the game, the Colonels scrambled back into the contest to make it exciting. A 14-3 EKU run made it 56-53 with 7:39 to play, and EKU got within three points two more times with about five minutes remaining.
Leading 63-60, Bailey keyed a 13-2 Golden Eagle run that regained a double-figure advantage. Swansey's three-point play started the rally, and Bailey netted 10 straight points and Tech was up 76-62 with 1:30 left.
Bailey and Jud Dillard (photo left) each scored 15 points to pace Tech and lead five Golden Eagles in double figures. Bailey was 4-for-5 from the field, 3-for-3 from long range and 4-for-4 from the free throw line to hit his season-high. Dillard had a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Zac Swansey also achieved a double-double, getting 13 points and a career-high 10 assists. Kevin Murphy (above right) finished with 11 points and Alfred Jones added 10 points.
EKU had three players in double figures, led by Spencer Perrin's 20 points on 8-for-10 shooting. Josh Daniel was 5-for-6 and added 16 points, while Willie Cruz scored 15.
Tech had a 40-18 edge in scoring in the paint, and a 20-8 margin in bench scoring.
The Golden Eagles host the UT Martin Skyhawks Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in Eblcn Center, then welcome perennial OVC power Murray State Saturday night. For tickets, contact the Athletics Ticket Office in Eblen Center (931-372-3940) or log onto TTUsports.com.
Thursday's game is Jackson County Night, with an offer of $1 tickets for all residents of that neighboring county. On Saturday, Tech hosts Putnam County Night, with a similar $1 offer for Putnam County residents. Saturday will also be Basketball Alumni Night at Eblen Center.
Thanks to Craig Delk of the Cookeville Herald-Citizen for photos.