Three-game winning streak ends at hands of West Virginia, Kevin Jones
Dillard notches double-double with 15 points, 12 rebounds
MORGANTOWN, W.V. – Tennessee Tech struggled from the field Monday night and fell victim to another outstanding performance by West Virginia senior forward Kevin Jones in a 72-53 loss to the Mountaineers in the first round of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic at WVU Coliseum.
The Golden Eagles shot just 34 percent on the evening and went 1-for-15 from three-point range. Jones, who came into Monday's game averaging 20 points and 11 rebounds per contest, scored 25 and grabbed 14 boards to lift West Virginia to its fourth consecutive victory.
The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for Tech as the Golden Eagles now head to Las Vegas for games against Kennesaw State and an opponent to be announced on Thursday and Friday.
One bright spot for the Golden Eagles was the play of Jud Dillard, who notched his third double-double of the season, scoring 15 points and adding 12 rebounds. It was Tech's first double-double since Dillard recorded 18 points and 15 rebounds at High Point on Nov. 22. Zach Bailey added 10 points for Tech and was 4-for-4 from the free-throw line.
West Virginia began to separate itself from the Golden Eagles around the 10-minute mark of the first half when Paul Williamson hit back-to-back three-pointers to extend the Mountaineers' lead from two points to an 18-10 advantage. WVU went on to build its first double-digit advantage of the game with two free throws by Gary Browne with 9:23 left in the half.
The Golden Eagles showed some fight just before halftime, however. Zac Swansey fed a slashing Zach Bailey on back-to-back layups to account for four points, and Liam McMorrow converted a hoop-and-harm three-point play to cut the lead to seven with five seconds left in the half. WVU took a 33-26 lead into the break.
Tech couldn't hang with the Big East club in the second period, however. West Virginia built its lead back to double-digits and took a 15-point advantage at the 13:33 mark on free throws by Keaton Miles. The Mountaineers built their lead as high as 23 with 7:21 left to play and Tech never got closer than 19 the rest of the way.
"I think their physical play and their physical defense bothered us," TTU head coach Steve Payne said. "We stood around on offense and didn't attack well. We never got rhythm shots. They got up on our guards and we didn't get the ball into the post. The biggest pressure releaser is getting the ball into the post, and we didn't do that."
WVU outscored Tech 18-8 on points off turnovers and 17-10 on second-chance points. Tech was able to hang with the Mountaineers on the boards, grabbing 35 rebounds compared to 37 for WVU.
Jones went 11-for-20 from the field and grabbed five offensive rebounds for the Mountaineers. Darryl Bryant and Deniz Kilicli also scored in double-figures for West Virginia with 15 and 12 points, respectively. Bryant added six rebounds while Kilicli had five.
For Tech, leading scorer Kevin Murphy, who came into the game averaging 21 points per contest, scored just seven on 2-for-11 shooting. Murphy did knock down one three-pointer to extend his streak to 16 consecutive games with a made three dating back to Feb. 26.
Liam McMorrow added seven points, all of which came in the first half, to go with seven rebounds. McMorrow picked up three quick fouls early in the second half, however, and fouled out with 5:41 left to play. Swansey distributed six assists and added four points on the night.
The Golden Eagles return to action against Kennesaw State at 4:30 p.m. CST on Thursday as the Las Vegas Classic continues. Tech will then play either Bethune-Cookman or Texas A&M Corpus Christi on Friday.