By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information Coordinator
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech men's basketball team could have used about another 30 seconds Friday evening, as the Golden Eagles dropped a heartbreaker in Thompson-Boling Arena to in-state rival Tennessee, 61-58.
A back-and-forth battle for all 40 minutes, Tech just ran out of time during it's final-minute rally, after Aleksa Jugovic drained a buzzer-beating trey to provide the score.
Tech actually led for over 17 minutes in the game, jumping out by as many as six after wrapping up the first half on a 9-0 run. The Golden Eagles were firing on all cylinders over the first 20 minutes, hitting 56.5 percent from the field, including a stunning 62.5 percent from downtown.
Torrance Rowe led the charge in the first half, scoring 12 points thanks to three consecutive treys in the middle of the period.
But the worst thing in the world that can occur for a team on fire like the Golden Eagles did. Halftime.
The Tech squad held its own over the first nine minutes of the second stanza, keeping the lead and holding the UT shooters at bay. But the Volunteers just continued to chip away, eventually pulling even at the 10:31 mark.
Much-improved shooting led the Vols to as much as a seven-point advantage with under a minute to play. UT shot a paltry 33.3 percent from the floor in the first half, but connected on 60 percent of its second-half attempts.
Tennessee also saw a massive increase in trips to the free throw line. After seeing just nine fouls called over the first 20 minutes of action (five on Tech and four on UT), the second half involved a lot more of the whistle. Tech was called for 11 second-half penalties, providing the Vols with a game total of 18 trips to the charity stripe as opposed to six for Tech. UT would finish the contest with nine total personal fouls despite entering the contest with the third most fouls committed in the nation.
Fouls aside, the Golden Eagles saw their hot-shooting hands fall cold in the second half with a shooting percentage of just 37 percent for the final 20 minutes.
UT's Josh Richardson led the game with 19 points on the night, adding four steals as well on the defensive end. The Vols also saw double-digit scoring from Devon Baulkman who finished with 10 points.
Tech's Charles Jackson notched his ninth double-double of the year against the Vols, dropping 13 points and adding 10 boards. He also managed two steals and blocked two shots on the night while shooting 66.7 percent from the field.
Torrance Rowe finished the contest with 14 points, cooling off in the second half. He also tied for the team lead with three assists. Josiah Moore tallied 13 points for the Golden Eagles and battled his way to six rebounds, including four on the offensive glass.
The Golden Eagles will wrap up their four-game road stretch Monday evening as the squad travels west for a contest at UMKC. The 7:05 p.m. CT match-up will wrap up the final game from ESPN's Bracket Buster contests. Tech defeated Missouri-Kansas City in the previous meeting, 68-62.
Photo by Tony Marable