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.