COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – He had the longest name on the court, took some of the longest shots in the game, and had perhaps the greatest impact on its outcome.
Tennessee Tech junior point guard Jeremiah Samarrippas hit two clutch 3-pointers late in the second half, forced a turnover in the final minute, and directed the Golden Eagles (11-16) to their fourth consecutive homecourt victory, a 68-62 non-conference win over UM Kansas City Saturday night in Eblen Center.
He was one of four Golden Eagles to score in double figures. Jud Dillard led the parade with 20 points and eight rebounds while Dennis Ogbe added 16 points and eight boards. Samarrippas and Lanerryl Johnson each finished with 10 points.
UMKC (7-22) was led by Nelson Kirksey with 16 points and eight rebounds while Estan Tyler added 14 points. Fred Chatmon finished with seven points and a game-igh 10 rebounds.
The win sends the Golden Eagles into their most important week of the season on a high note. The Golden Eagles host two Ohio Valley Conference games that will determine whether or not they advance to the OVC Basketball Tournament.
The mission is simple: Two wins and Tech is in the tournament.
Tech hosts Eastern Kentucky Thursday night, then wraps up the regular season Saturday night when it welcomes Morehead State.
On Saturday, the Golden Eagles and Kangaroos waged a close fight throughout the first half of their BracketBuster contest. Tech's largest lead of the half was four points and UMKC held a five-point edge, before they retreated into halftime with the Golden Eagles grasping a slim, 28-25 lead.
With the score knotted for the tenth time of the night, 36-36, the Golden Eagles looked ready to take control. Johnson scored six points and had a steal as Tech rolled through a 9-0 run to build a 45-36 lead, the largest margin of the night. A redshirt freshman guard, Johnson scored another layup to keep Tech on top by eight, 49-41, with 8:03 remaining.
But the Kangaroos bounced back with an 9-2 run to close the gap to 51-50, capped by a 3-pointer from Kirk Korver with 6:14 remaining.
Up by a single point, 53-52, Tech got a huge boost when Samarippas drained a 3-pointer. Once again, UMKC came back, this time with back-to-back 3-pointers from Tyler and Korver, knotting the score at 58-all, the 11th time of the game.
Samarrippas hit two free throws for a two-point edge, then dropped in another 3-pointer to make it 63-58, with 1:39 to play. That's all Tech needed. The Golden Eagles got a jumper from Javon McKay with 20 seconds to play and made three of their final four free throws to preserve the six-point victory.