Golden Eagles set up semifinal showdown with last-minute win

Tickets are available for semifinal game vs. Murray State Friday

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Seniors Zach Bailey, Zac Swansey and Kevin Murphy all stepped up and made the headline-grabbing plays in the final minutes to help lift Tennessee Tech to a gut-wrenching, 77-73 victory Thursday night over Southeast Missouri in the Ohio Valley Conference Basketball Tournament in Municipal Auditorium.

With the win, Tech moves into the semifinals on Friday where the Golden Eagles (19-12)  get their third shot at No. 9 Murray State, the top-seeded team in the tournament which has sat idle since last Saturday.

After Southeast Missouri (15-16) rallied from a 19-point deficit midway in the second half to take a four-point lead with two minutes remaining, the Golden Eagles found the heart to score the next 11 points for the win.

Murphy made back-to-back jumpers to tie the game at 70-70, and with 21 seconds left Swansey canned his only 3-pointer of the night, beating the shot clock and pushing Tech on top, 73-70, with 21 seconds left in the game.

The decisive trey from Swansey came after Terrell Barnes intercepted a long SEMO pass, and immediately after Bailey nabbed a critical offensive rebound, both huge plays in the tie game.

Bailey then made two free throws for a five-point lead, grabbed a defensive rebound and made a steal that led to a dunk by Swansey for a seven-point margin with three seconds left to seal the game.

Murphy, the leading scorer in the OVC, finished the game with 24 points, two assists and three steals while junior Jud Dillard added 18 points and nine rebounds.  Bailey also reached double figures with 10 points while Swansey finished with nine points and 12 assists.

The Redhawks, who shot 54 percent in the second half to spearhead their comeback, placed three scorers in double figures. Tyler Stone led the way with 24 points and 11 rebounds while Corey Wilford and Nick Niemczyk scored 16 points each. Lucas Nutt had eight assists for SEMO while Michael Porter added seven points and seven rebounds.

Tech shot 55 percent in the first half and 62 percent in the second, finishing the game hitting 58 percent overall (29-for-50), including 6-for-12 from outside the arc. SEMO shot 44.8 percent for the game, after hitting 37 percent in the first half. The Redhawks were 9-for-18 from long distance, and owned a 33-24 lead in rebounds.

SEMO had a huge edge (22-7) in second-chance points, while Tech had the advantage (28-17) in points off turnovers.

Tech led by 15 points at halftime, 43-27, and built its lead to 19 points, 55-36, with 13:36 to play on 3-pointers by Dennis Ogbe and Bailey, and a layup by Dillard.

The Redhawks outscored Tech 28-9 over the next nine minutes to tie the game as Niemczyk hit a 3-pointer and a jumper to knot things at 64-all.

The scored tied once again at 66-all on a Swansey jumper before the Redhawks raced ahead, 70-66 on two free throws from Porter and a jumper by Stone.

Tech and Murray State will face off at 6 p.m. Friday. The Racers had byes on Wednesday and Thursday, and will be seeing their first action on the Municipal Auditorium floor.

Tech has obtained 100 additional student tickets for the tournament, and tournament session tickets are also available by calling the Athletics Ticket Office in Eblen Center at (931) 372-3940. Tickets ordered will be available for pickup Friday at the auditorium.