By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – A complete effort on both sides of the ball, plus career nights from several different players, propelled the Tennessee Tech men's basketball team (11-17, 7-6) to an 83-70 victory over in-state and Ohio Valley Conference rival Belmont (18-5, 12-1) on senior night.
The victory, which saw Tech's lone senior player honored, Hakeem Rogers, sent out with a 2-0 mark in the Eblen Center against Belmont in his two-year career, snapped the Bruins' unbeaten mark in league play and a 14-game winning streak. Rogers capped his final game in the Hoop with seven points and five rebounds, as well as two massive steals.
Kajon Mack (a senior transfer from Tulane who was granted a sixth year of eligibility for next season by the NCAA) put together the top performance of his career to help the Tech charge, posting his first career double-double. The Los Angeles native dropped a game-high and career-best 24 points on 8-for-11 shooting and 7-for-9 mark from the charity stripe. He added a career-high 12 rebounds while flirting with a triple double thanks to six assists.
Junior forward Curtis Phillips Jr. also filled the scoreboard at a torrid pace, scoring a season-high 19 points behind a 6-for-12 night from the floor. He led Tech with three triples. Sophomore point guard Stephaun Adams set a career-high with 11 points in just 17 minutes of action off the bench. He hit 3-of-4 attempts from the floor and dished out three assists.
The Golden Eagles never allowed the Bruins to pull away, trailing by no more than points at any point in the contest. Tech grabbed a 34-32 halftime edge after a methodical first half from beyond the arc. TTU hit 57.1 percent (4-of-7) from deep over the first 20 minutes, as opposed to Belmont's struggles of 21.1 percent (4-of-19).
The second half started as a back-and-forth battle with each side trading leads of no more than three points all the way up to a one-point advantage for the Bruins with 11 minutes to play. It was all Tech from that point on, as the Golden Eagles unleashed a 14-2 run over the next two and a half minutes to go up by 11.
Tech snagged the lead for good with a triple from junior guard Aleksa Jugovic and doubled the advantage to four on a jumper in the paint from Mack. A three-point play the old-fashioned way from Mack made it a seven point lead. Belmont's Evan Bradds snagged two free throws before Adams and Jugovic drilled back-to-back treys to complete the run.
From that point on, the Golden Eagles matched any and all scoring efforts by the Bruins, never letting Belmont closer than nine points back. Tech outshot its in-state rival 50.9 percent to 37.7 percent from the floor. The 3-point difference was even more staggering, as the Golden Eagles finished 8-of-18 for 44.4 percent compared to a 7-for-36 showing for 19.4 percent by Belmont.
The TTU defense forced 16 Bruin turnovers, scoring 23 points off the miscues, while making just 11 of its own.
Both Jugovic and Mason Ramsey each finished with 10 points on the night, providing Tech with five double-digit scorers.
The Golden Eagles will get a much needed rest with a just a single game on the docket for next week, a Saturday evening showdown at Jacksonville State at 7 p.m. CT.
Photo by Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information