With three straight losses heading into Nashville, some were wondering if the Eagles’ season was on the verge of unraveling.
Tonight, the Eagles hit one field goal over a seven minute period in the first half. That was merely a hiccup on a night they dominated. Morehead State forced 22 turnovers, including 14 steals, on their way to a 76-61 win over Tennessee Tech.
Jeremiah Samarrippas, the Golden Eagles star on Wednesday night, was frustrated by the Eagles defense all night, finishing with 10 points and five assists, but committing five turnovers in the loss. On the other side of the ball, Morehead State’s guards were fantastic, led by 23 points from Angelo Warner and 17 from Kareem Storey.
Morehead State was the aggressor in the early going, setting the tone by jumping out to a 20-5 lead within the first seven minutes. But then the Eagles offense went flat, as fouls and turnovers of their own allowed Tennessee Tech to slowly crawl back as close as two.
After taking a five-point lead into the half, the Eagles exploded again to start the second half, building the lead back up to 18 in the first six minutes. This time, Tennessee Tech couldn’t mount a comeback, despite shooting 48% from the floor in the second half.
“Our guys came out with a sense of resiliency and a sense of purpose tonight,” Morehead State head coach Sean Woods said. “We knew that we had our hands full tonight but we weren’t going to let it be because we didn’t play as hard as we possibly could. With a great sense of urgency and energy and a passion – I thought that was the game tonight.”
“Obviously, it wasn’t one of our better games,” Tennessee Tech head coach Steve Payne said. “From an offensive standpoint…a lot of turnovers – we can’t win with 22 turnovers.”
Morehead State will have to contend with the tournament’s overall top seed tomorrow night in Belmont, a team that swept the Eagles in the regular season. One of those losses was one that got away, as Morehead State blew a seven-point lead in the final two minutes.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Angelo Warner said of playing the Bruins. ” We’ve been talking about how we’re going to get Belmont again. We finally got them. This time I’m pretty sure there won’t be the same mistakes as last game. We’re going to come out with a lot of passion and a lot of enthusiasm and really get after it for 40 minutes like we did tonight.”
For Tennessee Tech, the Golden Eagles are hoping for a CIT or CBI bid for their three seniors, who say they don’t want to go out on a down note.
“We’ve been through a lot together as a team, coaching staff – on and off the floor,” Samarrippas said. “I wish we could have played a little better this last game. I know Morehead State’s a good team, but I feel like we’re pretty good too, but tonight we didn’t play well…we didn’t take care of the ball. To go out like this, especially for us seniors who figure it’s our last college game, it’s tough because you never know what’s going to be next.”
Photo by Eric Callison