With 13:57 left to play in the ball game, it looked all but over. Zach Bailey had just drained a 3, to put Tennessee Tech up 53-36 over Southeast Missouri State.
Little did we know the game was just getting started.
SEMO staged a furious rally over the next 10 minutes, going from 19 point deficit to a 4 point lead with 2:14 left.
That proved to be just enough time for one final rally.
Tennessee Tech scored the next 9 points, on their way to a 77-73 win over Southeast Missouri State, and staging a semi-finals rematch with top seeded Murray State.
SEMO’s rally was fueled with big 3’s from Corey Wilford and Nick Neimczyk, who both finished with 16 points. It was Tyler Stone setting the tone on the interior finishing with 24 points and 11 rebounds. Leon Powell? 2 points, 4 rebounds.
For much of the game, it looked like TTU’s Zac Swansey was on pace to set the all-time OVC Tournament record for assists. He fell short, as turnovers cut many late games possessions short, but still finished with 12, and just 3 turnovers, and hit a huge 3 to spark Tennessee Tech’s end of game run. Kevin Murphy was the recipient of many of Swansey’s early assists, finishing with 24 points, but needed 20 shots to get there. Jud Dillard added 18 points, on just 10 shots.
Stone shows why he’s an all-OVC selection. Powell shows why he’s not: I mentioned the stats above, and it was striking how little impact Powell had on the game. Stone had to sit for a good portion of the first half, after picking up a technical and another foul, and that happened to coincide with the point Tennessee Tech started really building their lead. Both Stone and Powell were being played physical underneath, but Stone was better able to get passes, create shots, and get offensive rebounds and putbacks. Without a doubt, he was the heart of that frontcourt this season. The great news for SEMO fans: Stone returns next year.
Swansey was left off the 2nd team…why again?: In my end of season awards, I put Swansey on my all-OVC 2nd team. In the one that counts, he was left off. He led the OVC in assists and steals. He’s the best passing point guard in the OVC. It was an oversight by coaches and AD’s, because he was deserving, and proved why again tonight.
Tired? Really?: In the post game press conference, Dickie Nutt became the first coach to use the word tired. Don’t get me wrong, playing games on back to back games is tiring. But you can’t have that excuse on the 2nd day. No matter what seed you get, you have to play 2 games in 2 days and win. Did it have an impact? Probably. Is that really an excuse? Hardly.
That Illegal Screen Call…: Shouldn’t have been called, and Dickie Nutt was right to be upset about it in the post game conference. It was questionable at best, the first one called all night, 28 feet away from a basket in a tight game. I don’t know why you make that call. I’m sure Tennessee Tech fans everywhere disagree with me, but that call shouldn’t have been made.
Swansey on playing the Racers – “They haven’t seen our best. They haven’t seen us put together 40 minutes”: Has anyone? Because with the talent your team has, you wouldn’t be 9-7 if you did. You wouldn’t have nearly blown a 19-point 2nd half lead. That’s been the largest problem all season.
But why do you say that? Seriously? Why motivate a team that really has less reason than you to be motivated? You have to win to stay alive, Murray doesn’t. When asked about playing the Racers, baiting them shouldn’t be your response.
Don’t get me wrong, you’re entirely correct. They haven’t seen you put together 40 minutes. Just…say that in the locker room. Not the room with all the cameras and tape recorders.