By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Tenacious rebounding, sound ball movement and efficient shooting propelled the Tennessee Tech men's basketball to an important, 86-80 victory over Ohio Valley Conference and in-state rival Austin Peay Thursday evening.
The Golden Eagles (17-11, 9-6) snapped a three-game skid with the victory, the team's fifth in its last six trips to Clarksville. The win over the Governors (15-12, 10-5) also secured Tech its third straight trip to the OVC Tournament, with a top-six seed guaranteed.
Early on, Tech struggled to find its rhythm, missing its first four shots and turning the ball over four times in the opening four minutes. Austin Peay jumped out to a 6-0 lead headed into the first media break, having made each of its first three shots.
The game belonged to the Golden Eagles from that moment on. Tech ran off nine straight points and finished out the half with a 36-28 lead behind 48.1 percent shooting from the floor and 11 points from senior forward Curtis Phillips Jr.
As hot as the Tech offense finished the first 20 minutes of action, things got extra steamy in the second half. The Golden Eagles shot a sizzling 59.1 percent from the floor and 66.7 percent from the 3-point arc to drop 50 points over the final 20 minutes.
Tech owned a 35-31 advantage on the glass on the night against one of the league's more dominant rebounding teams. Junior Courtney Alexander led all players with nine boards while Phillips added seven and sophomore big Micaiah Henry grabbed six.
Phillips led the scoring effort, going bananas on his way to a career-high 29 points on a highly efficient 8-for-12 performance. He sunk 4-of-6 tries from deep and converted on 9-of-13 attempts from the charity stripe. He also turned in three steals.
Graduate guard Kajon Mack made every play count in helping lead his team to a victory, hitting 5-of-7 tries from the floor, 2-of-3 triples and 7-of-8 free throws on the way to 19 points. He dished out a game-high seven assists and rejected two shots. Fellow graduate guard Shaq Calhoun finished a perfect 6-for-6 at the free throw line on his way to 16 points.
The Golden Eagles finished an impressive 10-for-19 from downtown, good for a 52.6 percent showing. Tech also hit 53.1 percent of its shots from the floor.
Tech will play its final regular season road contest Saturday evening, taking on long-time rival Murray State in a 7:00 p.m. CT contest in Murray, Ky.
Photo by Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information