The Tennessee Tech men’s basketball team sent a message to the rest of the Ohio Valley Conference this week by defeating the conference’s top teams. The Golden Eagles defeated the second ranked team in the OVC ,at the time, Tennessee State Thursday and knocked off the #1 team in the conference Saturday when they defeated the Belmont Bruins 89-79. The win also gave Tech its twelfth home win of the season
“ We felt like the two games (University of Tennessee-Martin and Morehead State) that we lost we wasn’t supposed to lose them,” said senior Ryan Martin. “ We truly feel like we are the best team in this conference. We are just on a mission everyday trying to prove to everyone that we are the best team.”
Martin and the Golden Eagles took a big step in proving themselves by ending the Bruins undefeated conference season. Tech completed 47.5 percent of their shots compared to one of the OVC’s top offenses Belmont’s 41.8 percent.
“ It was definitely tough,” said Torrance Rowe about defending against the Bruins. “ They are a great team obviously one of the best teams in the conference, but we just had to do what we had to do to stop them and we did a great job of that tonight.”
Neither team could take control in the first half. The lead changed ten times during the half and the score was tied six times.
The Golden Eagles were able to gain a slight advantage before half 39-36. Hakeem Rogers and Belmont’s Nick Smith both had 12 points at the break. Martin had the most rebounds with nine during the half.
The Bruins began the second half shooting “ lights out”. Belmont hit three-pointers in their first five possessions of the half. Tech largest deficit came with 11:17 left when the Bruins took a 64-55 lead.
A steal by Rogers with 8:11 remaining resulted in a foul by the Bruins’ Craig Bradshaw at the other end. Rogers converted on both free throws to bring the Golden Eagles to within one point 64-63. On the next Belmont possession, Rogers came up with another steal and a fastbreak layup to give Tech the 65-64 lead. The Bruins’ responded immediately and regained the lead after a Taylor Barnette layup.
The two teams continued to trade blows. Rowe’s three pointer put the Golden Eagles back on top 68-66. Belmont would tie the game at the 5:29 mark 70-70 , but they were unable to get back in front.
Tech embarked on a 12-2 run in the last 2:27 of the game. The Bruins had nine missed field goals in that stretch. The Golden Eagles 89-79 victory was a result of Belmont’s offensive ineffectiveness late in the second half. Tech forced the Bruin’s to have ten turnovers in the second half and 18 overall.
“ That is our most consistent defensive game we have had all year,” said Steve Payne.
Tech had nine steals during the game and also picked up three blocks from Anthony Morse.
“ I thought Mason Ramsey and Anthony Morse were great on post defense. They were outstanding in post defense,” said Payne.“We won the game in the paint. We won the game on the paint and on the backboard.”
The Golden Eagles had four players with double digit point totals: Ryan Martin, Torrance Rowe, Hakeem Rogers and Mason Ramsey. Rowe had the game high of 26 points.
The impact the 4,428 fans in attendance could definitely be felt. The atmosphere was high energy from the beginning until the end. Payne wanted his players to understand the moment.
“ This game was not a do or die game,” said Payne. “ I told them before the game this is what you play college basketball for. For this environment, this game to play a great team in your building and in this fun. Have fun. If we win it’s one game and if we lose it’s one game. We are still getting better and there is a lot of season left.”
Tech will be on the court again Feb. 6 at Jacksonville State. They will return to the Eblen Center Feb. 13 for a double header with the Tennessee Tech women’s basketball team.