Hot-shooting Golden Eagles get defensive late, blow past Kennesaw State
Murphy scores 21 points, adds 10 rebounds to lead Tech
LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Tennessee Tech shot a blazing 59 percent from the field Thursday and buckled down defensively in the final 10 minutes en route to an 81-68 victory over Kennesaw State at the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic at Orleans Arena.
Kevin Murphy led Tech, notching his first double-double of the season with 21 points and a career-high-tying 10 rebounds while going 9-for-17 from the field. Murphy added four assists and moved into sixth on TTU's all-time scoring list, passing Anthony Avery. The senior guard from Fairburn, Ga., now has 1,576 career points.
Tech never trailed after the 10:21 mark of the first half and built a lead that grew as high as 14 early in the second half. Kennesaw State wouldn't go quietly, however, fighting back to cut the margin to five at 62-57.
It was there, however, that the Golden Eagles put together an encouraging 10 minutes of defensive-minded basketball. Tech held the Owls without a field goal for nearly six minutes, going on an 8-0 run and building its lead back to 70-57 in the process. The Golden Eagles forced KSU into another three-minute scoring drought down the stretch, building their lead to 17 and securing the victory.
With the win, Tech improved to 7-5 on the season and has now won four of its last five games. Tech will face Bethune-Cookman at 4:30 p.m. CST on Friday to wrap up its stay at the Las Vegas Classic. Bethune-Cookman was a 61-52 winner over Texas A&M Corpus Christi on Thursday.
In addition to Murphy's performance, Tech got strong individual games from a number of different sources on Thursday. Jud Dillard came up one rebound shy of a double-double, scoring 16 points on 6-for-10 shooting and adding nine boards.
Liam McMorrow tied his career-high with 15 points and was key down the stretch in helping Tech separate itself from the Owls. McMorrow came off the bench and went 6-for-8 from the field while also adding seven rebounds, five of which came on the offensive glass.
Zac Swansey, the OVC's assist leader at 5.5 per game, notched his first double-figure assist outing of the season, distributing 10 helpers while also scoring seven points. Zach Bailey was Tech's fourth double-figure scorer, contributing 13 points and adding three steals.
The Golden Eagles dominated Kennesaw State on the inside, outrebounding the Owls by 14 and grabbing 14 offensive boards. Tech outscored KSU in the paint 34-18 and earned 16 second-chance points.
Tech went 7-for-13 from three-point range, with three of those trifectas coming from Bailey. Murphy connected on two threes, extending his streak to 17 consecutive games with a made three.
With the exception of its long scoreless stretches down the stretch in the second half, Kennesaw State played well enough on offense to hang with the Golden Eagles for most of the afternoon. The Owls shot 49 percent from the field and hit nine three-pointers. KSU was led by Markeith Cummings, who bested his 17-point-per-game average, scoring 27. Spencer Dixon added 22 points for the Owls.
Tech was clicking on all cylinders offensively from the get-go Thursday, beginning the game 7-for-10 from the field and building a 16-8 lead at the first media timeout. KSU got back in the game, however, and trailed by just one at 30-29 with 4:54 left in the half.
The Golden Eagles then embarked on a 13-0 run that gave them a 43-29 advantage with 55 seconds left. Kennesaw State cut the lead back to 11 going into the break with a three-pointer at the buzzer by Dixon. The Owls couldn't get closer than five points in the second half.
-Swansey's 10 assists marked the first time a Tech player has reached double-figure helpers in a game since Swansey distributed 11 against Murray State in an OVC Semifinal victory last March.
-With Murphy's 21 points and 10 rebounds, TTU has now notched back-to-back double-doubles. Jud Dillard scored 15 points and pulled down 12 rebounds against West Virginia on Monday.