Tennessee Tech falls short in loss to Murray State

The last time Tennessee Tech faced Murray State, the Golden

Eagles beat the Racers in the semifinals of last year’s Ohio Valley

Conference tournament.

This time, the outcome was different.

Donte Poole scored a career-high 28 points and grabbed eight

rebounds to lead No. 15 Murray State to its 18th straight victory,

82-74 on Saturday.

”I thought it was a hard fought, tough game between two teams

that really wanted to win,” Tennessee Tech coach Steve Payne said.

”I think they remembered last year’s OVC semifinal tournament game

and obviously had a tough crowd here . It’s a good atmosphere, it’s

a good rivalry. I like playing them, our guys like playing them.

The only thing that would make it better for this league is if we

were undefeated and top 20.”

Kevin Murphy and Jud Dillard scored 19 points each to lead

Tennessee Tech (11-7, 3-2). Dillard also had 12 rebounds for the

Golden Eagles, who tied the score seven times.

”Tennessee Tech has a great group of guards on their team and

that’s the bulk of their team and they did a great job of coming

out and executing,” Murray State’s Isaiah Canaan said. ”Murphy

did a good job coming out and getting in rhythm. Jud Dillard is a

great player he gets all the garbage buckets and offensive

rebounds, (Zac) Swansey controls their team and we knew coming in

that would be the reason we won or lost so we had to take it upon

thyself and try to limit their touches and points to come out with

the win, but they did a good job executing.”

Canaan scored 24 points as Murray State (18-0, 6-0) set the

record for longest winning streak in school history, surpassing the

17 in a row by the 2009-10 team.

”Credit our guys’ resiliency,” Racers coach Steve Prohm said.

”We’re having to play a lot of different ways and we’re just

trying to figure things out and they’re doing things on the fly and

making adjustments and I couldn’t be prouder of them.”

The score was tied at 57 with less than 10 minutes to go but

Murray State pulled away by making its last 15 free throws. The

Racers hit 77 percent from the line in the second half.

Playing in front of a sold-out crowd mostly dressed in white,

the Racers used a 15-0 run and 6-of-15 3-point shooting in the

first half to take a 39-36 halftime lead.

”I know that stretch in the first half it seemed like they

weren’t missing a shot,” Dillard said. ”We were trying to get to

the shooters and then it goes in the net. That just seems how it

was a lot of times during the game.”

Murray State had a game-high 17-point margin in the first half

and forced the Golden Eagles, who got 22 points from their

reserves, to 17 turnovers.

The teams combined for 42 offensive rebounds – 23 from Tennessee

Tech.

”I’m proud of these guys, we’ve weathered every storm all year

so far,” Prohm said. ”If you look, I don’t know if it was in our

game notes, we have the second most road wins in the country –

second most in the country behind Cleveland State. I read that last

night, and that’s impressive.

”We’ve been to Morgan State, they’ve only lost eight home games

in the last four or five years-that’s a tough place to play,”

Prohm said. ”We’ve been to Birmingham, we’ve been to Alaska, we’ve

been all over so these guys have been battled tested. They’ve

battled through Ivan’s injury now, we’re dealing with that and

we’re having to play totally different.”

Both the Racers and Golden Eagles were members of the original

Ohio Valley Conference and Murray State leads Tennessee Tech 120-47

in the series, dating to 1930.