Golden Eagles head to semis; Martin falls in Municipal
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Jud Dillard recorded his fourth double-double on the season while Kevin Murphy put his ninth 20+ point performance of the season in the books to lead the Golden Eagles to a 83-59 victory over the no. 8 seeded Skyhawks in the quarterfinal round of the OVC Tournament.
Having already shouldered two losses at the hands of the Golden Eagles, and coming off an upset win over no. 5 seed Tennessee State on Wendesday, the Skyhawks were looking to carry their momentum through Thursday night for another upset over Tech. Tight defense on both ends of the court held the two teams scoreless through the first two and a half minutes of play before Reuben Clayton laid in the first two points of the game for UTM.
Tech owned the first run of the game, with four different players scoring eight straight to put Tech up 10-2 with 14:13 left in the half.
Martin, however, responded with a run of their own, kicked off by a jumper by Terrence Smith at 13:41. From that point on, the Skyhawks scored another 14 points to Tech's two over the next five minutes to take a six point, 18-12 lead with 8:26 to play in the first half.
Benzor Simmons scored nine of those 14, and totaled 11 on the half, to fuel UTM to their largest lead of the game, but they were only able to stay on top for just under two minutes. Sophomore Matt Marseille notched a three-point play and followed it up with a lay-in off of a steal by Murphy to pull Tech to within one, and Murphy's lay-up with 5:50 to play gave the Golden Eagles a 21-20 lead that they would hold for the rest of the game. He went 5-9 in the first half for 10 points to lead the Golden Eagles.
Tech closed out the half with a 17-4 run headed into the locker room, fueled primarily by three-point plays out of several guys on the court. Swansey hit his first three of the game, as did junior Zach Bailey and freshman Chase Dunn. Dillard, who netted seven points and grabbed seven boards in the first half, also chipped in with an "and-on" play to contribute to the run and give TTU a 38-24 lead at the half.
Despite the respective runs by each team in the first half, the Golden Eagles dominated in the paint with 24 points to UTM's, and forced nine turnovers which they converted for 13 points. Tech also netted 10 second-half points, while Martin was unable to convert any of their six offensive boards.
The Golden Eagles opened the floodgates in the second period of play, starting off with an 18-5 run over the first seven and a half minutes of the game to notch their largest, 25-point lead with a score of 56-31 with 12:36 left in the game.
Martin was only able to close the lead to 15 after that, as Tech continued to dominate in the paint, 26 points to eight in the second half. Murphy netted another 14 points for a grand total of 24 on the game to lead the Golden Eagles, while Dillard put up another nine points and nine rebounds to notch his fourth double-double of the season.
"We're really excited to be in the OVC tournament, and I just wanted to bring a lot of energy with my game," said Dillard post-game. "I know that a lot of the time my team feeds off of my energy, so if I can get in there and rebound and be the catalyst underneath, we have a great chance of controlling the boards," he finished.
Overall, 12 Golden Eagles combined for the team's 83 points, with all 14 eligible players seeing floor time. Swansey joined Murphy and Dillard in double-digit scoring with 12 points and five assists, while chipped in seven and Dunn and Bailey logged six each.
"We're certainly excited to be in Nashville for the OVC Tournament, it's a wonderful opportunity for 16 men's and women's programs to come to Nashville and we're certainly appreciative of the conference and all of our fans as well," said head Coach Mike Sutton.
The Golden Eagles will take on the defending OVC Champs, the Racers of Murray State, on Friday at 7 p.m. in the semi-final round of the tournament.