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Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles

Fierce rally falls just short in Golden Eagle loss to Govs

Fierce rally falls just short in Golden Eagle loss to Govs

By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – An incredible comeback for the ages came up just short for the Tennessee Tech men's basketball team Saturday evening, as the Golden Eagles (5-15, 2-5) fell to in-state and Ohio Valley Conference rival Austin Peay (6-11, 2-5) in the Hooper Eblen Center, 58-55.

Trailing by as much as 20 points with just under 12 minutes to play, the purple and gold mounted a comeback attempt that really took fire later in the half. Hovering around a 14-point deficit, the Golden Eagles really went work with under four minutes on the clock.

Tech went on to end the contest on a 12-1 run, but the home team's last effort to tie the game fell short. The Governors captured the final OVC tilt between the two rivals in Cookeville, with Austin Peay set to depart the league for the Atlantic Sun Conference next season.

"I thought that Austin Peay did a great job," Tech head coach John Pelphrey said. "I thought they came into the game ready to go in terms of playing well offensively. They were really physical with their defense. We really struggled to score and really just did not have a good decision-making first half with 11 turnovers. They got off to a great start and you have to give them a lot of credit for that."

On top of 11 turnovers in the first half, the Golden Eagles struggled to score over the first 20 minutes, producing just 19 points on 33.3 percent shooting.

"Our defensive half wasn't terrible," Pelphrey explained. "They only scored 30 points themselves, and 58 for the game, but I felt we just had some loud mistakes that gave them some second-chance opportunities. I do think they had a bunch of guys step up and make some plays."

In the second half, the purple and gold showed improvement across the board, making just two turnovers and scoring 36 points on 46.2 percent efficiency. Struggles from the charity stripe also plagued the Golden Eagles, with Tech finishing just 11-for-22 at the free-throw line on the night.

"We've shown that we can be better than this offensively; obviously in the second half 36 points is much better than 19," Pelphrey said. "But in this league and against good teams, especially a team tonight that was playing super well, you can't get in a hole like that. That's a real challenge, even at home, to try and get out of."

Jr. Clay led the Tech effort, scoring 18 points on 4-for-8 shooting with 3-of-6 efficiency from distance. He added three assists and four rebounds to the mix as well. The veteran Golden Eagle passed TTU Hall of Famer Kenny Sidwell to rank 10th all-time in the program's scoring charts. Fellow backcourt mate Keishawn Davidson contributed 12 points with a team-high four boards while Mamoudou Diarra also scored in double figures with 11 points and three blocks.

"I think we did make some growth in the game," Pelphrey expressed. "We found a way to just get tough and physical and finally settle into the game from a competition standpoint. I don't think it was pretty, but we found a way to turn them over some and just kept fighting. I liked the togetherness we had. The things the guys were saying in the huddle were good. I think the thing we need to take away from this game is we see we can be a very good, aggressive defensive basketball team."

Tech will continue its stretch of five of six contests at home on Monday, playing host to Morehead State in a 6:00 p.m. CT affair. The match-up represents a rescheduled tilt from early January that was postponed due to COVID-19 protocols.

Photo by Jim Dillon

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