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Second-half surge lifts Tech to big win over Tennessee Wesleyan in home opener

Second-half surge lifts Tech to big win over Tennessee Wesleyan in home opener

By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – A monster second half helped the Tennessee Tech men's basketball team cruise to an 82-48 victory over visiting Tennessee Wesleyan Thursday evening, as the Golden Eagles (1-1) claimed their 43rd win in 46 home opening games in the Hooper Eblen Center.

After getting off to a torrid start with an 11-1 lead, the purple and gold offense stalled for the rest of the opening stanza. The Bulldogs forced 11 Tech turnovers in the first half and matched the Golden Eagles from distance, leading to a 31-31 stalemate at the horn.

"I thought Tennessee Wesleyan came in here and survived an early barrage by us," Tech head coach John Pelphrey said. "We got up 11-1 and they really finished the half a lot better than us. I was impressed with their players and coaches. They stayed with it and made this a challenge. It's good for us to get challenged and be able to respond and win as well."

The Golden Eagles responded in the second half, playing stout defense and exploding on offense. Tech blitzed the Bulldogs 51-17, out-rebounding the visitors 31-17. The purple and gold also cut down the turnovers, making just four in the stanza while piling up a whopping 13 steals over the final 20 minutes.

Hitting 44.4 percent of its attempts from the floor in the second half, the Cookeville crew hit six triples and dished out 18 assists as part of an offensive onslaught. Tech also racked up a ridiculous 28 points on the fast break, delivering the crowd a bevy of jaw-dropping dunks. 

"In the second half, I think you had a chance to see the type of team we want to be, both defensively and offensively," Pelphrey explained. "We cut down our turnovers, were able to get some stops and some steals, we got out on the break, and were able to make some conversions."

Leading the effort for the Golden Eagles on the night was graduate transfer Jaylen Sebree, flirting with a triple-double behind 15 points, a career-high-tying 11 rebounds, and a career-best seven assists. He also picked up three steals while hitting a pair of triples.

South Dakota transplant Erik Oliver led all scorers in the contest with a highly efficient performance, dropping 19 points on 7-for-8 shooting. The junior hit 3-of-4 from downtown and added three boards and a pair of dimes, despite being limited to 19 minutes due to foul trouble. Fellow newcomer Jayvis Harvey turned in career-highs of nine boards and four assists chipping in three points.

"Jaylen was really good rebounding the basketball for us in both halves," Pelphrey expressed. "He was able to score the basketball a little bit more in the second half. Erik and Jayvis had some foul trouble early, but it allowed us to play some younger guys and get that experience piece you need."

Graduate transfer Ty Perry produced 12 points with five helpers and a team-high five steals. Local Celina native and Clay County HS product Grant Strong scored his first collegiate points on the night, finishing with 11 and five assists.

Junior forward Daniel Ramsey chimed in with eight points and six rebounds while Florida Atlantic transfer Bogdan Zimonjic tallied seven points and three boards. Redshirt freshman Isaiah Nelson-Ododa made his collegiate debut, picking up Tech's first block of the season. Rookie forward Jerome Beya tacked on four points and five rebounds, flashing his elite athleticism on an alley-oop slam delivered by Strong.

"In this game, I think it showed how good we can be," Pelphrey added, "but it also showed we have a lot of work to do."

Tech will hit the road once again over the weekend, departing for Huntington, W.Va. for a Monday evening affair with Marshall. Tip is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. for the Herd Run Hoops Jam presented by Tarkett Sports contest.

Photo by Jim Dillon

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