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Cold-shooting costs Golden Eagles in OVC loss to Panthers

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Eastern Illinois built a double digit lead to open the second half and maintained its edge all the way to the finish to hand host Tennessee Tech a 74-57 Ohio Valley Conference loss Thursday night in Eblen Center.

The win snapped an eight-game losing skid by the Panthers (10-14/3-9 OVC), and bumped the Golden Eagles down two spots in the league standings. Tech (16-10/8-5) is now in fourth place behind Murray State (11-1), Tennessee State (9-4) and Southeast Missouri (8-4).

The Panthers got 17 points, six rebounds and three steals from junior forward James Hollowell, who was 7-for-9 from the field. Jeremy Granger added 14 points and Joey Miller scored 10 as EIU won the only meeting this season between the two teams.

The Panthers shot 51.9 percent in the second half and 48.1 percent (26-for-54) for the game, and held a 38-34 edge in rebounds. The Panthers were 7-for-13 from 3-point range.

Cold-shooting cost the Golden Eagles, who hit 32.7 percent (18-for-55) from the field, including 7-for-22 from outside the arc. The 22 tries from long-range were the most by the Golden Eagles in a regulation game this season.

 Tech had three players in double figures, led by Kevin Murphy with 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Jud Dillard narrowly missed a double-double, netting 13 points and grabbing nine rebounds, while Zach Bailey added 10 points.

Tech shot a sluggish 24.9 percent in the first half, making 7-for-29 from the field and going 0-for-7 from outside the arc. EIU shot 44.4 percent in the opening 20 minutes including 3-for-5 from long range to build its eight-point halftime lead.

The only leads in the first half for the Golden Eagles were a trio of one-point margins, the last coming at 9-8. The Panthers were up by six on two occasions before Tech pulled to within two, 22-20, on a jumper by Dillard with 1:51 to play, but EIU scored the final six points of the period to head to the break on top, 28-20.

Things didn’t get any better in the second half as EIU got a 3-pointer by Granger to start the action and push the lead to 11 points. A layup by Alfonzo McKinnie and a 3-pointer by Miller made it a 16-point bulge with 18:20 to play. The Panther lead grew to as many as 20 points, and the closest Tech would come after that was 12 points with 1:09 to play on a pair of free throws by Dillard.

On Saturday, the Golden Eagles will play their final conference road game of the season when they journey to Nashville to challenge the Tennessee State Tigers in the second game of an OVC doubleheader in Gentry Center. TSU upset previously unbeaten Murray State Thursday, 73-68.

Tech’s next home game is on Wednesday as Eastern Kentucky visits for a 7 p.m. tipoff in Eblen Center. For ticket information, visit the Athletics Ticket Office in Eblen Center or call (931) 372-3940.