COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – A healthy dose of defense and an offensive spark off the bench from senior Jud Dillard keyed Tennessee Tech to a 69-45 victory over Berea College Monday night in Eblen Center, bumping the Golden Eagles back above the .500 mark and snapping a three-game losing skein.
Tech (4-3) held the high-scoring Mountaineers (7-4) to exactly
half of their season scoring average, limiting the visitors to 27.3
percent shooting from the field (15-for-55).
Dillard, meanwhile, absent from the starting five for the first time this year and only the second time in two seasons, led Tech with 20 points and seven rebounds. He was also one of four Golden Eagles with three assists in the contest. Dillard was 7-for-11 from the field.
The only other Golden Eagle to reach double digits in scoring was freshman guard Lanerryl Johnson with 10.
All 11 players in uniform played and 10 puts points on the scoreboard, a testament to the team’s balanced effort. Matt Marseille had nine points and six rebounds.
Sophomore guard Aaron Ponder led Berea in scoring, putting all 11 of his points in the book in the first half. Deon Banks, Koty Riley and Tevin Webster netted eight each. Webster tied Dillard for game-high with seven rebounds.
Tech led by as many as 24 points late in the game, but the contest was extremely close through the first 20 minutes as Berea found ways to hang tough.
Berea stormed out to a quick start from the opening tipoff, grabbing a 5-0 lead just one minute into the contest.
Sophomore Mitchell Hill, making the first start of his career,
drained a 3-pointer and was followed by a lyaup from Javon McKay, a
three-point play by Dennis Ogbe, a layup from Matt Marseille, a
trey from Jud Dillard and layup by Ammanuel Diressa to put Tech
ahead, 15-5 four minutes later.
Tech’s early run stretched to a 19-0 string with two more players chipping in, a tip-in by Ryon Riggins and a layup from Lanerryl Johnson. Tech’s 19-5 lead included points from eight different players.
The early lead grew to 16 points, 23-7, before the Mountaineers got their offense pulled together. A 19-6 run by the visitors included 11 points from Aaron Ponder and Berea was within three points, 29-26, with 13 seconds left in the first half.
Dillard’s jumper at the buzzer sent the Golden Eagles to halftime with a five-point advantage.
Same as he did in the first half, Hill also scored the first points of the second half to ignite an 8-0 run by the Golden Eagles and lift Tech to a double-digit lead, 39-26 just over a minute into the period.
Dillard was the primary weapon during a span in the second half in which Tech spread the difference to 20 points for the first time, 56-36, with 7:44 remaining. After that, Berea could only pull within 15 points, 58-43, following a three-point play by Riley.
Tech finished at 50 percent from the field (26-for-52) including 10-for 25 from long range, the most since draining 12 in the season opener. Tech also held a 39-28 edge on the glass and had 19 assists compared with just four by Berea. Those numbers helped to overcome 23 Golden Eagle turnovers.
The Golden Eagles will host their final home game of 2012 on Thursday when UW Green Bay visits for a 7:30 p.m. contest, the second game in a doubleheader. Tech’s next home game isn’t until Jan. 5, 2013.
For tickets to the game, or season tickets, please call or visit the Athletics Ticket Office in Eblen Center (931-372-3940).
GOLDEN NUGGETS: Mitchell Hill became the first homegrown, Cookeville High School product, to start for the Golden Eagle men’s basketball team since Ronnie Robinson in December 1991. Robinson started on December 28, 1991 in a game against Georgia, the only start of his career…Tech’s starting lineup was the fourth different fivesome on the floor at tipoff in seven games this season…Berea came into the game averaging 90.5 points per game and leading all of NAIA Division II in both assists per game and free throw percentage…