By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Inspired performances on both sides of the ball helped the Tennessee Tech men's basketball overcome an early, double-digit deficit and turn in a lop-sided victory over Morehead State Thursday evening, as the Golden Eagles cruised past the visiting Eagles, 79-62, in the Hooper Eblen Center.
Tech (7-11, 3-2) picked up its third straight Ohio Valley Conference win, overcoming a sluggish start on both ends of the floor. Struggling to find a rhythm on offense, the purple and gold watched as Morehead State (10-8, 3-2) made more than 70 percent of its shots from the floor over the opening eight minutes.
Trailing 21-8 with just under 12 minutes to play in the opening stanza, the Golden Eagles went to work, with forward Jaylen Sebree connecting on back-to-back triples to cut the deficit to seven at the next media break. A graduate transfer from Morehead, Sebree turned in a spectacular evening, dropping a team-high 20 points on 6-for-9 shooting against his former team.
Continuing to climb back into the contest, Tech squared the ball game at 29-29 with a little under five on the clock in the first half thanks to another 3-pointer from Sebree. The two sides fought back and forth the rest of the opening stanza, with the Golden Eagles taking a 36-35 advantage into the break thanks to a tip-in layup from junior Diante Wood with just 19 seconds on the clock.
Opening the second half, Morehead jumped back out front with a five-point lead, but the Golden Eagles responded with an 11-0 run to push back ahead by six. The visiting Eagles closed back to as close as three points with nine minutes to play, but an 8-0 run from the purple and gold ended any comeback attempt.
The Golden Eagles patiently pushed the lead to as high as 19, ending the evening on an impressive 22-8 run. Tech's second half along was quite impressive, shooting 56.5 percent from the floor, hitting 5-of-10 attempts from 3-point range, sinking 12-of-14 tries from the charity stripe, and holding Morehead to just 37.0 percent efficiency from the field.
On the night, the purple and gold dished out 19 assists while making just nine turnovers and shot a sizzling 59.1 percent from beyond the arc, converting 13-of-22 treys. Tech saw a balanced attack across the lineup, leading a whopping 31 points off the bench compared to just five for the Eagles.
In addition to Sebree's 20 spot, fellow graduate transfer Ty Perry dropped 14 points with a 4-for-6 showing from deep. Both he and Sebree turned in three assists each, with Sebree also accounting for four rebounds.
Junior forward Jayvis Harvey racked up a team-high six rebounds with nine points, four dimes, and two steals. Junior guard Erik Oliver made the most of his 20 minutes of action off the bench, contributing 12 points on 4-for-7 shooting with four assists and no turnovers.
Local Sparta product Grant Slatten was a huge spark off the bench as well, sinking all three of his shots for eight points in 14 minutes, including key, back-to-back makes from downtown in the second half. Center Nolan Causwell rejected two shots while chipping in seven points and five boards while rookie forward Jerome Beya also blocked a pair of attempts by the Eagles.
Morehead's Alex Gross led all scorers with 23 points on 10-for-14 shooting during the night while Kalil Thomas added 12 points and a game-high seven rebounds. Drew Thelwell and Branden Maughmer each produced 10 points for the visitors as well, with Thelwell mixing in seven assists. Just six different Eagles scored on the night.
The Golden Eagles will look to keep their winning streak in league play rolling on Saturday, playing host to in-state rival Tennessee State in a 3:00 p.m. CT affair in the Hoop. Tip will take place following the conclusion of the Tech women's contest with the Lady Tigers, slated for a 1:00 p.m. start.
Photo by Jim Dillon