By Rob Schabert, Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Winning is beginning to become habit-forming for the Golden Eagles.
Tennessee Tech improved to 9-3 at home this season and kept itself in the thick of the post-season hunt with a 72-66 Ohio Valley Conference basketball victory over Eastern Kentucky Thursday night in Eblen Center. It was Tech's third consecutive victory.
Senior Dennis Ogbe led five Golden Eagles (13-13/6-5 OVC) in double figures with a solid 18 points on 7-for-10 shooting, and grabbed a game-high seven rebounds. Javon McKay added 12 points and three blocked shots, while Dwan Caldwell, Shirmane Thomas and Ladon Carter each scored 10. Caldwell also snared seven rebounds as the Golden Eagles held a 32-26 advantage on the glass.
Senior point guard Jeremiah Samarrippas directed the Tech attack, providing six points and a game-best seven assists while suffering only three turnovers against relentless EKU pressure.
The Colonels (17-9/7-5 OVC) had four players score in double digits, topped by Corey Walden with 17. He topped EKU with five assists. Marcus Lewis netted 14, Glen Cosey scored 13 and Eric Stutz had 10.
The Golden Eagles shot a blistering 55.8 percent (24-for-43) for the game and distributed the ball for 18 assists, with seven different players dishing the rock.
What looked like a Tech runaway in the first eight minutes developed into a real fight-to-the-finish. EKU never held a lead, tying the game at 3-3, but fighting from behind all night long.
The closest EKU got in the second half was two points, at 44-42 early in the second period. The Colonels also pulled within three with just 2:04 to play, 64-61, on a 3-pointer by Cosey.
Tech was able to hold on after Caldwell scored on a layup on a feed from Samarrippas with 1:39 to play for a five-point lead and the Golden Eagles converted 6-of-10 from the line.
The Colonels made it 70-66 with 22 seconds left on free throws from Walden, but DeOndre Hanyes made two on the other end with 21 seconds left.
Cosey's 3-point try from in front of the EKU bench was convincingly rejected by Thomas, and Orlando Williams tossed up a 3-point try with nine seconds left that missed.
Tech used crisp passing, excellent ball movement, suffocating defense and a strong post presence to break on top early. The Golden Eagle lead ballooned to 16-5 when Samarrippas buried a 3-pointer from the right corner with 13:50 to play in the opening half.
Tech's early first half dominance continued, as the lead puffed to 21-5 as the 12 minute mark passed. Tech hit 58.3 percent (7-for-12) in the first eight minutes while EKU managed just 16.7 percent (1-for-6).
The Colonels forced five consecutive turnovers by the Golden Eagles and went on an 8-0 run to close the margin to 21-13.
Tech's lead went back into double digits, growing to 14 on a jumper by McKay with 7:31 to play, 27-13, before EKU challenged down the stretch. The Colonels cut the difference down to five points, 32-27, but got no further before the break. Tech held a 38-33 lead at halftime.
The Golden Eagles host Morehead State Saturday in an Eblen Center doubleheader, with the women's game tipping off at 5:30 p.m. and the men's contest at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday is Military and Public Safety Appreciation Night, with free admission to members of the U.S. military and their families, as well as personnel that work in public safety positions. Visit the Athletics Ticket Office in Eblen Center or call (931) 372-3940 for more information.