By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – A tough night offensively was too much for the Tennessee Tech men's basketball team to overcome Saturday afternoon. The Golden Eagles dropped a tough one on the road in Ohio Valley Conference play, falling to UT Martin (8-15, 3-9) by a final score of 77-58.
A lack of production on offense, including 18 turnovers, doomed the Golden Eagles (7-18, 3-9) at the Elam Center. Tech was held to just 32.8 percent shooting in the contest and struggled to hit its open looks both inside the paint and beyond the arc.
Just two nights after losing a heartbreaker in overtime at Southeast Missouri, Tech seemed to lack its typical edge and spark.
"Obviously if we make shots it's a different ball game," Tech head coach Steve Payne said. "I just felt like we didn't have much in our legs. We had some good looks in the first half when we were defending well and doing some good things, and we didn't make them. Our offensive woes really affected us mentally. We just didn't handle it with enough maturity. We knew it was going to have to be a grind-it-out game for us and we just didn't seem to have the energy left to do that. I can't explain why."
The Golden Eagles did finish with a solid percentage from beyond the arc, hitting 44.4 percent from the field thanks in large part to redshirt freshman Hunter Vick and junior Cade Crosland. Vick led the purple and gold with 15 points and a career-high five makes from beyond the arc.
Crosland, who tied a career-high with 12 points in the ball game, sank four of his five tries from 3-point range. All 12 of his points came in the final three and a half minutes of the contest. He also snagged a pair of rebounds and dished out an assist.
"I'm proud of how our guys fought at the end, but we just never could string together enough possessions on offense to close the gap," Payne explained. "When we started getting a little out of our comfort zone defensively, we got a little spread out and they started making some shots."
One of the top teams in the league at drawing fouls and making trips to the free throw line, Tech struggled to draw those calls on the night, visiting the charity stripe just 13 times.
"We knew it was going to be tough," Payne said. "I could tell in practice in last night, coming off a game where we had three guys play over 40 minutes, we just did not have the juice that we need to have. Our legs are a little shot, so we'll take a couple of days off and get back to practice."
The Golden Eagles return to the comfort of the Hooper Eblen Center for a long, four-game home stand. The contest represent the final four regular season games in Cookeville this season. The home stand will start Thursday, Feb. 14 with a rematch against league foe Jacksonville State. Tip is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. CT.
Photo by Thomas Corhern