By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – It came down to the final play, but the Tennessee Tech men's basketball team held on for its third straight victory Thursday evening, edging SIUE in the Vadalabene Center, 68-67.
The hometown Cougars had one opportunity with a chance to win, inbounding the ball from half court with 1.6 seconds to play. The Tech defense held strong, not allowing the ball in right away and getting a hand in the face of SIUE's David McFarland, whose 3-point attempt rattled off the iron to preserve the visitor's victory.
The Golden Eagles moved to 16-8 overall and 8-3 in the Ohio Valley Conference standings, remaining in a tie for third place in the league with Austin Peay and Jacksonville State, both of which also won Thursday night. SIUE fell to 7-15 on the year, with a 3-8 mark in league play.
The contest proved to be a game of runs, with Tech owning a 20-4 mark in the first half that eventually led to a 29-24 halftime lead. SIUE had their own large streak of points, closing the contest a 20-9 run over the final six minutes and 45 seconds.
In the end, a combination of grit, skill and luck finished off the victory for Tech. With 1:26 on the clock and the Golden Eagles clinging to a one-point lead, sophomore guard Cade Crosland came up with arguable the play of the game, diving at a loose ball off a missed shot at the top of the key for an offensive rebound.
Crosland flipped the ball to graduate transfer Shaq Calhoun as he went to the ground, keeping the Tech possession alive. Calhoun, who gathered his first career double-double on the night, then drove the lane and was fouled with a minute and 20 seconds to play. He hit both free throws, advancing the Tech lead to three.
Both sides traded turnovers over the next 40 seconds and the Cougars managed back-to-back offensive rebounds to set up a layup with 25 seconds to play to cut the lead to one again.
Graduate guard Kajon Mack drove the lane for a foul with 13 seconds on the clock and calmly knocked down two free throw attempts, making it a 68-65 Golden Eagle advantage. The Cougars managed two free throws of their own with nine seconds to play, but were unable to convert on any more offense the rest of the way.
Mack led all scorers in the game with 18 points on 6-for-14 shooting. He also had five assists and four rebounds in 40 minutes of action. Calhoun gathered the first double-double of his career, scoring 16 points and snagging a career-high 11 rebounds.
Senior Mason Ramsey posted 11 points and seven rebounds in 37 minutes of action before fouling out late while Curtis Phillips Jr. added eight points and seven boards on his birthday. Corey Tillery made a huge impact off the bench, scoring eight points with two triples.
The Golden Eagles will return to action Saturday, Feb. 3 as they continue their three-game road slate with a 3:15 p.m. CT contest against Eastern Illinois in Charleston, Ill.
Photo by Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information