The Tech Men’s Basketball team has relied on a simple recipe for it’s recent success.Balanced scoring, high-percentage shooting, an unrelenting effort on the boards, and a dash of timely shooting by junior guard Zac Swansey has the team in the hunt for an Ohio Valley Conference championship.
Swansey hit his third game-winner of the year last Thursday to propel Tech to a 77-74 victory at Eastern Illinois in a near repeat of the teams’ first contest on Dec. 19. In between those clutch buckets, he nailed a 3-pointer against OVC first-place team Austin Peay with two seconds remaining to win. The shot was featured as the number-one play on ESPN’s Top Plays later that night.
“It feels good from a personal standpoint, but [those wins] were huge for our team,” Swansey said. “The [win] at Austin Peay, Terrell Barnes got a huge offensive rebound and found me, and at EIU, Coach [Payne] told me to get us a bucket.
“Luckily both shots went in and gave us two conference road wins.”
Over the past week, Swansey has averaged just more than 20 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists to go along with one-and-a-half steals. Tech’s play has been excellent as well, and Swansey emphasized how important team play was for overall success.
“Team play is the [most important],” Swansey said. “Everybody on our team has a role, and for us to be successful, everybody has to do that individual role.”
When asked about Tech’s 7-3 record in the last 10 games, Swansey pointed to solid defense, which in turn leads to high-percentage shots at the offensive end of the court. Points off of turnovers and fast-break points are easy and have often allowed Tech to have quick starts in games. He pointed to all these factors as a key component. The stats certainly back up that sentiment.
In the recent 93-86 Tech victory over Southeast Missouri State, Tech shot 56.9 percent from the field, including a blistering 61.5 field-goal percentage in the first half. In the last two games, both Tech wins, the team has forced 17 turnovers. Tech also owns a plus-9 margin on the boards in those games. Against SEMO, Tech jumped out to an early 10-2 lead and never gave the lead back. Junior guard Zach Bailey led the way in that game with 23 points and 11-12 shooting from the free throw line. Four Tech players were in double figures.
“We have been taking better care of the ball, and we’ve been taking better shots,” said Swansey. “When you do those things, your chances of winning go way up.”
Tech played a pair of road trips in January without head coach Mike Sutton. Sutton has coached with Guillian-Barre Syndrome for the past six years. Swansey did say that playing without the coach was unusual.
“It’s definitely different,” he said, “but we had to continue to take care of business. That’s what he wants. He has prepared us well, no matter who’s on the sidelines.”
Coach Sutton will remain by his team for a critical home stand this week, which includes three home games in a five-day span. Tech played Eastern Kentucky yesterday1 and will face Morehead State tomorrow in a doubleheader. The home stand finishes Monday against Austin Peay.
“It’s a huge home stand for the University,” Swansey said. “We have a chance to get to the top of the conference and stay there. [It is] the biggest home stand for Tech basketball in a long time.”
Tech Basketball plays all its home games at the Hooper Eblen Center. For more information, visit TTUSports.com.
Thursday’s score is unavailable due to Oracle deadline.