COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The mission now is to make it three-in-a-row. That comes on Saturday evening at Jacksonville State.
On Thursday, Tennessee Tech put together another solid team effort, featuring a stifling defensive performance, to claim a 71-52 Ohio Valley Conference victory over Tennessee State in Eblen Center.
It marked the fourth time in 2014-15 that coach Steve Payne's team has won back-to-back games. A win at JSU on Saturday would not only make it the first three-game win streak for the Golden Eagles (12-13/4-8 OVC), it would keep Tech in the chase for a spot in the OVC tournament in March.
The win Thursday was also a small measure of payback for an eight –point loss at Tennessee State (5-21/2-9 OVC) in Nashville in late January. It left the all-time series between the two schools deadlocked at 30-30.
Several players put up impressive numbers toward the win, with senior Dwan Caldwell leading the scoring. He used a 6-for-9 shooting effort to score 17 points and also grabbed seven rebounds and had two of Tech's 19 assists. Josiah Moore and Mason Ramsey each came off the bench to reach double digits, Moore scoring 13 with six rebounds and Ramsey with 10 points and six boards. Junior Charles Jackson, saddled with some foul trouble, finished with six points and a game-high nine rebounds.
Marcus Roper led all scorers, topping TSU with 21 points, while Jay Harris added 10. Xavier Richards had eight points and nine rebounds, and topped the Tigers with three assists.
Tech's defense was sensational through most of the first 20 minutes, limiting TSU to 29.2 percent (7-for-24) shooting from the field while creating a 12-point halftime advantage.
It took a while to get there, however, as the Tech offense didn't convert opportunities into points several times. Through eight minutes, the Golden Eagles led by one point and through 12 minutes, the Tech margin was just two points.
With 7:16 to play in the period, the Tigers were within one at 18-17 on a layup by Christian Mekowulu. Tech's lead was two points, 25-23, with 4:34 remaining before the break when Richards hit a layup.
Tech finally clicked through the final four minutes, putting together a 10-0 run on the strength of two 3-pointers by Moore and two jumpers from Ramsey. Tech was on top 37-25 at the intermission.
Torrance Rowe got things started in the second half with a 3-pointer, one of his 3-for-5 showing from downtown, and Tech's lead scooted upwards to 16 then 18 points. The only pushback from the Tigers made it a 12-point game before the Golden Eagles posted their largest lead of the night at 21 points. That came twice, the last at 71-50 with 2:01 to play.
It was Tech's first double figure victory over Tennessee State since a 20-point win in 2007, in a series marked by tight battle for the past eight years.
In addition to their 19 assists, the Golden Eagles held a 44-32 edge in rebounds and forced 20 TSU turnovers, converting those to an 18-6 advantage in points of turnovers.
The Golden Eagles keep busy with two games in a three days span, including an OVC contest Saturday night at Jacksonville State and a non-conference outing Monday night at East Tennessee State. Tipoff Saturday against the Gamecocks is at 7:30 p.m. CT, while the tilt at ETSU is at 6 p.m. CT.