Golden Eagles build big lead, then hold off hard-charging Belmont in Eblen Center
By Rob Schabert, Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – What they narrowly missed accomplishing a month ago in Nashville, the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagle basketball team was able to complete Saturday night in Eblen Center with a stunning, 81-76 upset over Ohio Valley Conference leader Belmont.
Tech (11-13/4-5 OVC) improved to 12-3 all-time in the series with Belmont and put a halt to a four-game losing streak with the win.
Belmont (17-8/8-2 OVC) suffered only its second loss in conference play, and saw a five-game winning streak snapped.
It was an emotional victory for the 3,277 fans, who watched the Golden Eagles build a 19-point lead with five minutes to play, and then held their breath as the Bruins fought back to within four before running out of chances.
Sophomore Josiah Moore had career-highs of 22 points and eight rebounds to pace Tech, along with an assist, a blocked shot and two steals. Tech also got double digit scoring from Javon McKay with 13, Dwan Caldwell with 12 points and seven rebounds, and Jeremiah Samarrippas with 11 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Craig Bradshaw led all scorers, pacing the Bruins with 23 points. Reece Chamberlain added 16 points, six rebounds and six assists, and J.J. Man had a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Belmont's furious comeback made it nail-biting time for Golden Eagle fans over the final five minutes. An 18-3 run, featuring contested 3-pointers from Mann, Drew Windler and two by Bradshaw, brought the Bruins all the way back to within 74-70 with 1:39 left to go.
The Golden Eagles made 7-of-10 at the free throw line when the Bruins tried to force the issue with fouls.
The big second half Golden Eagle lead developed slowly as Tech outscored the Bruins, 24-6, over an eight-minute stretch. The run included seven from Samarrippas, six from Moore, plus points from four other teammates.
Things didn't start out well for the home team, as Belmont rolled out to a 15-5 lead in the first six minutes. The early run featured a pair of 3-pointers by Bradshaw.
Tech outscored Belmont, 18-8, over the next seven minutes to knot the score at 23-all with 6:22 to play in the first half. Josiah Moore knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers, and Javon McKay hit from the sideline and the Golden Eagles forged a 34-27 lead with an 11-2 run.
A long 3-pointer by J.J. Mann beat the halftime buzzer and closed the score to a four-point Golden Eagle lead at intermission, 36-32.
The Golden Eagles are back on the road later this week, with a Saturday morning visit to Jacksonville State for a 11 a.m. game to be televised regionally by CSS.