Big games from several leads Golden Eagles to OVC win over EKU

Tech plays Bracket Buster Saturday at Coastal Carolina

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Double-double efforts from Jud Dillard and Zac Swansey and season-best scoring performances by Zach Bailey and Bassey Inameti helped Tennessee Tech claim a 74-67 Ohio Valley Conference victory over visiting Eastern Kentucky Wednesday night in the Eblen Center.

Dillard led the way with 20 points and 10 rebounds, his eighth double-double of the season. Swansey, meanwhile, posted his first of the year with 10 points and 10 assists.

Bailey matched his season-high with 17 points while Inameti came up one short of his career-high and scored his season-best with 13. Kevin Murphy, the OVC scoring leader, finished the game with five points, five rebounds and five assists.

Jaron Jones scored 15 of his team-leading 21 points in the second half for EKU, while Mike DiNunno added 17 and Joshua Jones scored 11.

The balanced effort allowed Tech (17-11/9-6) to hold on to fourth place in the OVC standings, and pull within a half-game of third-place Southeast Missouri.

In dropping its fourth consecutive game to the Golden Eagles, Eastern Kentucky (14-14/6-8 OVC) slipped into a three-way tie for sixth place in the logjam in the middle of the conference ladder.

Tech controlled the first half, including a 19-9 rebound edge, but never could shake the pesky Colonels. EKU took a one-point lead in the opening minute but the Golden Eagles quickly moved on top with a 3-pointer by Swansey and held the lead the rest of the way.

Tech’s margin bulged to nine midway in the half when Terrell Barnes’ layup made it 18-9. DiNunno and Bailey traded 3-pointers and the lead was still at nine, 23-14, with 8:52 left in the half.

The Colonels crept to within three on two occasions before halftime, the last coming at 31-28, on a DiNunno layup with 50 seconds left. Bailey hit another 3-pointer for a six-point bulge before Joshua Jones got a steal under the basket and scored at the buzzer to make it 34-30 at halftime.

Murphy, who scored 36 against EKU in the first meeting this year, was scoreless at halftime, going 0-for-4 from the field. Bailey led Tech at the break with 10 points, while DiNunno’s 10 paced the Colonels

It was a very clean half of basketball, as far as mistakes and fouls go. EKU had only two turnovers and seven fouls, while Tech made just five turnovers and had four fouls.

Tech opened the second frame on a 10-3 run, including both of Murphy’s baskets in the contest, and opened an 11-point lead, 44-33, with 15:07 to play.

The Colonels pulled within two, 54-52, when a Jaron Jones converted a three-point play with 8:50 remaining to cap a 19-10 stretch for EKU.

Tech came back with a 3-pointer by Swansey, two free throws from Inameti and five straight from Dillard to reclaim a double-digit advantage, 64-52, with 6:32 remaining.

Tech was able to hold onto its edge at the free throw line down the stretch, despite hitting just 6-for-10 at the stripe.

Bailey also came up with two steals in the final 20 seconds after EKU had cut the difference to five, converting those into two free throws and a layup for the final score.  

The win snapped a two-game losing skid by the Golden Eagles, who claimed an 82-65 win over the Colonels in Richmond, Ky., Jan. 26.  EKU has now lost its last three.

The Golden Eagles step outside the conference for their next game, playing an 11 a.m. contest Saturday at Coastal Carolina in a Sears Bracket Buster game.

Following that, Tech has a week to prepare for the regular season finale against league-leading Murray State on Saturday, Feb. 25, in Eblen Center. Check TTUsports.com or the Athletics Ticket Office in Eblen Center (931-372-3940) for ticket information.