For the first time in four years, the Tennessee Tech men’s basketball team will travel to Nashville for the semifinal round of the Ohio Valley Conference tournament.On Tuesday, the No. 6 seeded Golden Eagles (15-16, 8-10 OVC) topped No. 3 Austin Peay (17-15, 11-7 OVC) in Clarksville in the opening round of the tournament by a score of 68-65.
Tech struggled early, shooting just 38 percent from the field in the first half, but made up for it in the second half, draining 19 of its 29 field goals.
The Golden Eagles trailed by four at the half and that lead was extended to eight just under seven minutes into the second half.
Sophomore Kevin Murphy scored just two points in the first 27 minutes, but then lit up the scoreboard with 16 points in the remaining 13 minutes including a game-winning 3-pointer with six seconds to play.
“We work on those things in practice and I was just looking to get to the hole, but they left me open for the three so I took it,” Murphy said. “It was my first buzzer-beater and it felt good. Their fans were all over us all night so it was nice to quiet them at the end.”
Junior Alfred Jones also put up 18 points on the night and finished with four rebounds and a pair of blocks.
“It is sweet to beat them on their home floor,” said Jones. “This shows how much we have improved since the beginning of the season. We just want to keep going.”
Senior Elijah Muhammad led Tech in rebounds with nine, all defensive, and tacked on nine points and five assists.
“The whole game I was thinking I couldn’t let this be the last game for the seniors,” said Jones. “I kept thinking about that the whole game. I love those guys. It wasn’t about me, it was about them.”
The Golden Eagles will take on No. 2 Morehead State at 8 p.m. tonight at the Bridgestone Arena (formerly the Sommet Center). Student tickets are available for $5 with a valid ID. The game will be broadcast live on ESPNU.
With a win, Tech would face the winner of the Murray State/Eastern Illinois game at 7 p.m. on Saturday for the championship. That game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN2.
“You have to play well to win and you have to earn the right to advance and we did that tonight,” said head coach Mike Sutton. “To advance again against Morehead, we will have to earn it.”
Tech is 20-39 all-time in the OVC tournament and has not won the tournament championship since the 1966-67 season.
For the first time since the inception of the All-OVC newcomer team in 1982, Tech did not have a single player named to any conference award.