COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – There were several heroic plays in the final minutes for Tennessee Tech Thursday night, but none was bigger than redshirt freshman Lanerryl Johnson's driving, scooping, change-his-hands layup in tall traffic with 24 seconds remaining for a four-point lead.
That edge held up as the Golden Eagles (5-3) withstood a hard-as-nails performance by Green Bay in Eblen Center, earning Tech a 74-68 non-conference victory. The Phoenix, a Horizon League power, slipped to 3-5 overall.
Senior Jud Dillard finished the night as the leading scorer with 23 points, playing the final two minutes with his head encircled by purple tape to hold a bandage in place over a gash on his chin. Johnson netted a career-best 22 points, hitting 3-for-5 from long range, and matched Dillard on the glass with a team-high six rebounds. Junior point guard Jeremiah Samarrippas (in photo) added 15 points and five assists.
Green Bay was led in scoring by Keiffer Sykes with 18 points while Brennan Cougill added 17 points. The Golden Eagle defense limited projected NBA draftee Alec Brown to six points and four rebounds.
The Golden Eagles took the lead in the first half-minute of the second half on a 3-pointer by Ogbe, and the host team was able to parlay that into as much as a nine-point advantage on two occasions, the second coming with 11:05 remaining on a layup by Dillard to make it 53-44.
UWGB scrapped its way back into the game, and a 3-pointer by Cougill from the top of the key with five minutes left made it a one-point Tech lead, 59-58. A three-point play with 4:14 to go by Sykes tied the contest at 61-61, but Johnson buried a long 3-pointer to give Tech its lead back.
It was tied once more, at 64-all, and once again it was a basket by Johnson that put the Golden Eagles on top. This time the lead held up, but barely. A driving layup by Sykes made it 68-66 with 52 second on the clock, setting the stage for Johnson's dramatic drive to the iron.
Tech made four consecutive free throws, two by Samarrippas and two by Johnson, for a 74-66 lead, before Brown added a layup at the buzzer for the final margin.
It was lights out in the first half, as each squad shot 54 percent from the field and right at 50 percent from long range. So, it came as no surprise that the Phoenix got a bucket from the 6-foot-9 Cougill on a Laettner-like, full court pass with 2.5 seconds to play in the period. The 17-foot turnaround jumper put the visitors on top by a basket, 38-36, at the intermission.
Green Bay owned the early edge before Tech caught up and took its first lead at 12-10 five minutes into the contest. From that point, the score was within a basket – including nine lead changes.
A jumper by Sykes with 1:13 to go tied the contest at 36-all, setting the scene for Cougill's buzzer beater into the dressing room.
Tech's next five contests are on the road, with the Golden Eagles returning to the Eblen Center court on Thursday, Jan. 3, for an Ohio Valley Conference contest against Tennessee State.