By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – A second-half, 3-point barrage proved too much to overcome for the Tennessee Tech men's basketball team Wednesday evening, as the visitors from Winthrop defeated the Golden Eagles 82-70 in the Eblen Center.
"Tough game," Tech head coach Steve Payne said. "I thought the guys played very well for about 32 minutes. Like a lot of young teams with a lot of new faces, sometimes we do things that make me scratch my head. We're doing fewer and fewer of those things."
Tech (1-6) held one of the nation's highest scoring offenses to just 33 points in the first half of the game, limiting the Eagles (4-3) to just 34.3 percent shooting from the field with half of their made shots coming from beyond the arc. The second half went by a different tune, as Winthrop knocked down 9-of-17 tries from deep.
On the flip side, the Golden Eagles went from a 50 percent clip from deep in the first half (5-for-10) to making just a single try over the final 20 minutes (1-for-10). Also a key factor in the game was the turnover battle. Tech made just four the entire first half, a season-low for any stanza. That total more than doubled in the second half, as the Golden Eagles turned it over 10 times.
"You can't keep turning over the basketball and giving them opportunities," Payne explained. "They got 14 points to our four off turnovers in the second half. That's the way we play. We create turnovers and we get out in transition. In the first half, I think that was reversed. Ten turnovers in a half, we're going to have a hard time beating any good team with 10 turnovers in a half."
Tech out-rebounded the Eagles, 42-39, and made just one less field goal in the contest. Winthrop finished with nine more makes from beyond the arc on 15 more attempts.
"That's a very good team picked towards the top of their league with a chance to go to the NCAA Tournament. They would be a very good team in our league. We knew they were good offensively and I thought our defense for the first 20 minutes was outstanding. I don't know that our second-half defense wasn't very good until we lost our composure with some things.
A huge bright spot for the Golden Eagles was the play of freshman point guard, and the Special Olympics Player of the Game, Jr. Clay. The rookie paced Tech with 20 points and a whopping nine rebounds. He added three assists while finishing 7-for-14 from the field. It marked the Chattanooga native's first 20-point outing of his career.
Senior Micaiah Henry posted 13 points, four boards and a pair of blocks while being trapped and double-teamed a large portion of the evening. Both Corey Tillery and Johnnie Vassar tallied nine points, with Vassar hauling in a career-high six rebounds. Hunter Vick chipped in eight points and five boards.
The Golden Eagles will hit the road for a match-up with in-state rival Chattanooga on Saturday, Dec. 1. Tip is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. CT.
Photo by Thomas Corhern