By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – It was a special finish to the 2021-22 regular season for the Tennessee Tech men's basketball team Saturday, as the Golden Eagles (10-20, 7-10) claimed an 88-75 victory over in-state and Ohio Valley Conference rival UT Martin on Senior Night.
Prior to the contest, the five senior members of the Tech program were honored during a special, Senior Night ceremony, with manager Trey Treadway, guard Jr. Clay, forward Shandon Goldman, guard John Pettway, and forward Amadou Sylla all being recognized for their contributions to the team over the past four years.
"We're really proud of our guys," Tech head coach John Pelphrey said. "I knew we would bounce back after a tough performance on Thursday. The guys had a lot of pride in their performance and they responded very well."
The Skyhawks appeared to have the hot hand early, hitting back-to-back triples to take a 6-0 lead right out of the gate, but the purple and gold answered quickly and often to jump out front and extend as much as a 16-point advantage in the first half. The Golden Eagles took a 13-point lead into the locker room, holding UT Martin to just 25.6 percent shooting from the floor and 20 percent efficiency from distance.
Tech moved the ball well, turning in nine assists in the opening stanza.
"I thought in the first half we were really outstanding offensively and set the tone for the game," Pelphrey explained. "I was impressed with UT Martin. Their basketball team found out before this game that we were not going to qualify for the OVC Tournament, and they found a way to be competitors themselves. You have to their coach and players a lot of credit. They put themselves in position in the second half to win that game and it was really fun to watch and see our senior leadership step up."
In the second half, the Skyhawks mounted a comeback, closing to within two points with 12:22 to play, but a wise timeout by Pelphrey allowed the Golden Eagles to regroup. Tech immediately dropped six-straight points out of the break, with Goldman burying a trey and Diante Wood converting an old-fashioned three-point play.
UT Martin never got closer than five down the stretch, with Tech hitting its free throws down the stretch and keeping pace with the high-octane offense displayed by the Skyhawks. Both sides scored 51 points in the second half, with Tech hitting 16-of-22 attempts from the charity stripe.
"Jr. Clay, Amadou Sylla, Biggie Goldman, and John Pettway just kept stepping up and making plays offensively," Pelphrey said. "We got a bit of defense in there a little bit late in the second and were able to get the win.
"The players deserve so much credit for how they finished the season, how they handled COVID, and how they handled a really challenging schedule of playing so many games in such a short period of time. They played three games a week for a month straight, and to finish the way have and put themselves in the conference tournament for the first time since 2018, I could not be more proud of them."
Five of Tech's seven players to see the court scored in double figures, with Kenny White Jr. leading the way with 18 points and five rebounds. Wood delivered season-highs of 17 points on 6-for-10 shooting and eight boards while also posting three assists and two blocks.
Clay turned in 15 points in his final game in the Hooper Eblen Center, producing three dimes and two steals as well. Goldman hit 4-of-8 tries from beyond the arc on his way to 13 points, as well as seven rebounds and six assists.
Keishawn Davidson rounded out the Golden Eagles in double figures, scoring 12 points with five boards. Just missing out on the double-figure club was Sylla, who delivered nine points and seven rebounds.
"They deserve it," Pelphrey expressed. "They wanted a little momentum and to create some memories on Senior Night. Seniors are special and those four guys are very near and dear to us. We are so appreciative of them and their families for everything they've done for our basketball team, our program, and our University."
The Golden Eagles will now set their sites on the OVC Tournament, hitting up the league's annual postseason event as the No. 7 seed. Tech will square off with in-state rival and No. 6 seed Austin Peay Wednesday evening, with tip scheduled for 9:00 p.m. CT at the Ford Center in Evansville, Ind.
Photos by Jim Dillon