Golden Eagles edge Tennessee State in overtime for second straight year, 87-81

Golden Eagles edge Tennessee State in overtime for second straight year, 87-81

By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – For the second time in as many years, it took an extra five minutes to determine the outcome between the Tennessee Tech men's basketball team and the Tigers of Tennessee State in the Gentry Center. And for the second straight year, the Golden Eagles (11-6, 3-1) came out on top, defeating the Tigers (6-9, 1-3) in overtime, 87-81.

A back-and-forth affair from tip, the two in-state rivals battled just like their all-time series record of 32-32 would indicate they would. The Tigers shot out of the gate early, starting the contest on a 9-0 run for their largest lead of the game.

The Golden Eagles immediately responded with back-to-back threes and kept the game close for the remainder of the first half, despite being held without a field goal for nearly eight minutes. Instead, Tech hit 8-of-12 attempts from the charity stripe to stay within striking distance. A triple from senior guard Aleksa Jugovic just before the break made it a 33-30 lead for the Tigers.

After Tennessee State used a layup to go up by five to start the second half, senior forward Curtis Phillips Jr. and graduate guard Shaq Calhoun took over.

Phillips scored eight straight points to swing the lead in favor of the Golden Eagles for the first time. Calhoun then buried back-to-back shots from beyond the arc. Another three by senior Mason Ramsey and a fast-break layup from Phillips moved the Tech advantage to 10 with just under 15 minutes to play.

A 3-pointer by Jugovic with 12 minutes to go gave Tech its largest lead of the game. The 13-point advantage came on the power of a 20-5 run by the Golden Eagles.

TSU fought back, using a run of their own, and an almost four-minute drought from the floor by the Golden Eagles, to tie the game with 7:49 to play. Neither side gathered more than a three-point advantage the rest of the half.

The Tigers hits two free throws with 30 seconds to play, moving in front 73-70 with Ramsey on the bench with five fouls and both Micaiah Henry and Courtney Alexander II both in foul trouble as well. The Golden Eagles worked the ball around until Sparta native Cade Crosland found an open Calhoun in the corner for the game-tying trey.

In the overtime period, Jugovic carried the brunt of the load, hitting two layups, including a crucial 3-point play the old-fashioned way that gave Tech the lead for good. He hit all three of his free throw attempts in the extra frame, scoring seven points to lift the Golden Eagles.

Phillips finished with a career-high 28 points while on 5-for-8 shooting from downtown. He also added seven rebounds, four assists and three steals. Calhoun scored a Golden Eagle career-high 23 points, knocking down six of his 12 attempts from beyond the arc. Jugovic chipped in 17 points, six rebounds and five assists. Alexander snagged 11 rebounds while adding eight points.

TSU's Delano Spencer and Christian Mekowulu each recorded 20 points to lead the Tigers. Darreon Reddick contributed 17.

The Golden Eagles moved to an impressive 7-1 all-time in overtime contests under the direction of head coach Steve Payne with the victory.

Tech will return to the Eblen Center on Thursday, Jan. 11 to host Austin Peay in a 7:30 p.m. CT contest. The Golden Eagles will then match up against Murray State on Saturday, Jan. 13, also at 7:30 p.m. in the annual Legend's Day celebration.

Photo by Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information