On senior night in Cookeville, Tennessee Tech senior Kevin Murphy gave it everything he had. But his seven 3’s and 26 points just weren’t enough to overcome Murray State, as Tennessee Tech fell in front of over 9,200 fans, 69-64.
6 Golden Eagles seniors were honored in front of the 5th largest crowd in Eblen Center history, one that was at times as loud as I’ve ever heard a basketball game. As we’ve seen in past senior nights this season, those seniors, especially Murphy, played as well as we’ve seen him play in his career. Murphy hit 4 of his first 5 three’s, scoring 17 of his 26 in the first half. But Murray’s defense would tighten in the second, and Tech couldn’t keep the Racers off the foul line down the stretch.
For the first time in school history, Murray State finished the regular season without a single road loss, a tremendous accomplishment, especially when you consider that the Racers traveled to Memphis and UAB, amongst a grueling OVC schedule that regularly seemed to put the Racers on Thursday – Saturday trips against teams on long rest. It’s not just another stat for the record books, it’s a stat that could tremendously help the Racers when the NCAA selection committee meets to determine seeds.
Semi-final rematch?: This was a great, athletic game, and as a basketball fan I would love to see a rematch. Lucky for me, that rematch is a possibility in the semifinals. Murray is, obviously, the 1-seed heading into Nashville, and with a SEMO loss to Austin Peay tonight, TTU is the 4-seed, and will only need to beat the winner of SEMO – EKU to earn a rematch just 6 days from now in Nashville. Nothing is assured, but I would welcome a rematch. The Racers? …Maybe not their first choice after tonight.
Is Tennessee Tech capable of winning the OVC tournament: Absolutely. Tonight, Kevin Murphy was outstanding in the first half. Jud Dillard was solid. Zac Swansey was…well, un-Swansey like taking 13 shots from the field, his highest attempt total all season. It’s not like other players weren’t getting good looks: Swansey had 6 assists as well. But it’s the rest of the supporting staff that’s been wildly inconsistent this season. Those three are going to be good, we know it, but their chances of winning the tournament are going to come down to those players. Or Murphy going for 50 again.
Is Murray State the favorite to win the OVC tournament: They’re 28-1. Yes. Moving on.
Yes, coach, your team is in the NCAA tournament now: During coach Prohm’s post game, I asked him to talk about keeping his team motivated now for the OVC tournament knowing they didn’t need to win it to make the NCAA tournament. His response: Reminding me that a week ago, I said they weren’t a lock. Thanks, coach. But since then, the Racers avenged their only loss, and finished out the regular season with a win at Tennessee Tech. Now, you’re a lock. And you can quote me on that one, haha. Actually, I would have said you were a lock after the Tennessee State game had I been there.
(By the way: Thanks for reading, coach!)
“Bad” Garrett makes another appearance: Brandon Garrett is one of those players that can have amazing nights. Tonight…was not that night. Garrett played just 5 minutes in the first half, and after that spell, sat the rest of the game. Maybe it had to do with the fact it was a close game, and Prohm wanted to keep the big 3 forwards in throughout the second half. But watching his play tonight, one has to believe that it had to do with his play on the floor.
Is this a “disappointing” season for Tennessee Tech?: Yes and no. Yes in the sense that most, including myself, think the Golden Eagles should have been better than 9-7 given the talent they have in their starting 5. But this is the first year with Steve Payne at the helm coaching the team (and yes, he did so on an interim basis, but that wasn’t his team. He was still coaching Sutton’s team the way Sutton wanted them coached, I would believe) and there’s always going to be that transition. The OVC has been tougher than many people expected, and TTU wasn’t able to rise above it. But this is a team that’s competed every night, and earned a bye in Nashville, finishing 2 games behind the 2nd seed. I don’t think you can compare teams’ seasons to the Racers, because what they’re doing this season is truly special. They’re right there with the rest of the OVC, and that’s all that can reasonably be expected of a first year head coach.