Normally, when one team shoots 53% from the field, and the other 36%, the game is anything but close. Despite a huge shooting discrepancy, Tennessee State couldn’t pull away, holding off Tennessee Tech on the road 72-66.
Both teams struggled early in the first half, but Tennessee Tech would hold a two point lead at the break despite shooting 7-25 from the field in the first half. Tennessee State would break open the game with a 20-7 second half run, and survived down the stretch despite shooting just 23-39 (59%) from the free throw line on the night.
Patrick Miller led the Tigers again with 21 points. M.J. Rhett posted his first career double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds, while Jordan Cyphers and Deshawn Dockery also scored double figures for the Tigers. Dockery was one of the worse offenders from the charity stripe, hitting just 5-10. That’s an improvement over his season (36%) and career (41%) percentages.
Jeremiah Samarrippas scored a career-high 22 points for the Golden Eagles, hitting five threes on the night. It was Samarrippas second 20+ point scoring performance this season. Freshman Lanerryl Johnson added 21 points off the bench. Jud Dillard had an off night, scoring just 13 points on 4-12 shooting. Tennessee Tech remain winless when Dillard has been held to under 15 points.
In many ways, Tennessee Tech is buying time until Robert Covington can return to the lineup late in the season. With two early conference wins, I’m more confident that the Tigers will be an OVC tournament team despite Covington’s absence, although they’ve yet to face an OVC team with a winning record in non-conference play. Miller’s play has been outstanding in Covington’s absence, and will likely need to continue being so for the Tigers to continue earning wins.
Tonight’s loss could be tough to swallow for the Golden Eagles. You need to win games at home, especially when you have a lead at the break. (Although that lead was just 2 points tonight) Samarrippas shows he can be more than just a facilitator on offense, now the question is can he and Dillard come together on the same night. Johnson coming off the bench is becoming a more curious decision as the games pass. The freshman scored 21 points in 22 minutes tonight, and is averaging nearly nine points a game for the Golden Eagles. Starter Javon McKay went just 0-1, and is shooting just 28% on the season from the field, and hasn’t scored more than five points since TTU’s season opener. There are other factors than scoring, but it appears this team is better with Johnson in the lineup than without.
Tennessee State travels to Jacksonville State (10-4, 2-1) on Saturday, while Tennessee Tech hosts Belmont. (10-4, 1-0)