By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Spectacular ball movement and tenacious defense propelled the Tennessee Tech men's basketball team to its first Ohio Valley Conference victory of the season Thursday evening, as the Golden Eagles rolled to a 70-49 victory over Eastern Illinois in the Hooper Eblen Center.
The purple and gold led wire-to-wire in a contest that was never really close, using a dominant display on defense to hold the visiting Panthers to just 36.5 percent shooting and force 17 turnovers. On the flip side, Tech (5-11, 1-2) used great ball distribution to the tune of 19 assists to fire at a 50 percent clip from the floor.
After jumping out front by double digits less than six minutes into the game, the Golden Eagles never looked back, allowing Eastern Illinois (6-10, 2-1) back within single digits just once the rest of the game. The Golden Eagles used a 14-0 run to move out front by 16 in the opening stanza, leading 21-5.
The Panthers produced an 8-0 run towards the end of the half to pull within eight, but the Cookeville crew moved back out front by double figures to end the half up 37-26. Another 16-2 run in the second half propelled the Tech advantage all the way to 27 with just over five minutes to play, all but securing the team's first league win of the year over the final unbeaten OVC squad.
Nine different Golden Eagles scored on the night, with eight posting at least five points. On the flip side, the Tech defense held the Panthers without a double-digit scorer, the first time the purple and gold held a Division I opponent without a double-figure producer in more than 20 years.
Tech's defense holding Eastern Illinois to just 49 points also marked the lowest scoring output by an OVC opponent since the Golden Eagles collected a 63-40 win against Morehead State during the 2004-05 campaign.
Leading the way offensively for the purple and gold was graduate forward Jaylen Sebree, boasting a game-high 15 points with four rebounds, and three assists. Junior guard Brett Thompson also turned in double figures, finishing 4-for-6 with 11 points and a team-high tying four assists.
Junior guard Diante Wood stuffed the stat sheet with eight points, a team-high tying six boards, four assists, and a block. Graduate guard Ty Perry delivered nine points, five rebounds, and three dimes while junior guard Jayvis Harvey contributed five points, six boards, and three assists.
Rookie Grant Strong tossed in seven points and a team-high three steals as well, making his third straight start. Fellow Upper Cumberland native Grant Slatten also put forth seven points, finishing 3-for-3 from the field with three boards in just 11 minutes off the bench.
The Golden Eagles will hit the road once more for a Saturday match-up at in-state and league rival UT Martin. Tip is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. CT and will follow the Tech women's tilt with the Skyhawks at 1:00 p.m.
Photo by Jim Dillon