Tag:Tennessee Tech
Posted on: January 31, 2012 12:40 pm
Edited on: January 31, 2012 12:48 pm

Kevin Murphy scores 50, promptly heads to bed

Murphy is tied for sixth in scoring nationally, averaging 21.3 points per game. (Getty Images)
By Matt Norlander

Kevin Murphy scored a cool 50 against SIU-Edwardsville Monday night. It was a season-high in college basketball this season. The last time we had a player putting up fitty it was coming from the hands and distant jump shot of a man named Jimmer.

The half a hundred Murphy collected is a Tennessee Tech program record, previously held by Ron Filipek in 1965-66, and Jimmy Hagan in 1958-59, when those men scored 48.

After his team won with ease, 98-80, Murphy received the team ball, took in the celebratory hugs and handshakes, then headed back to his room. Shortly thereafter, he fell asleep sometime around 10:30. That’s right. No celebration. He told me on the phone Tuesday morning that he slept quite well the night before.

If Murphy tucking himself in before the late local news is surprising, consider this: he and head coach Steve Payne said they weren’t aware until late in the game that the TTU record was being encroached. With less than two minutes to go, the team realized the senior was on the cusp of breaking the record.

“I thank my teammates. My teammates just saw I was hot,” Murphy said. “Through the course of the game I didn’t even realize I had that many points. I was looking to score in whatever ways I could to help the team.”

Murphy got to 50 with aggression. He attacked the lane, scored on a hoop-and-harm, earning a three-point play with 1:36 to go. Murphy said he once put up more than 60 in a summer AAU game, but he doesn’t know the number. In the hours after the game and even Tuesday morning Murphy was hearing from old high school friends that he hadn’t talked to in months.

The huge game lifted him to second all-time in Golden Eagles history, with 1,827 career points.

Murphy’s always been a scorer (he averages 21.3 points per game, tied with Maryland's Terrell Stoglin for sixth-best in the country), but he’s saved his best outings for the most recent games. Last Thursday’s win over Eastern Kentucky turned out to be foreshadowing: Murphy had a then-career best 34. He’s come a long way from what he was as a freshman. Murphy used to be a volume shooter. In his first season, he took 27 percent of his team’s shots yet scored a dismal .9 points per possession.

For Payne, a first-year coach at TTU, it was the second time he'd ever been on the bench while a player of his put up this many points. As an assistant at Georgetown College in Kentucky, he once watched a player score 51. Payne's proud of Murphy and his team so far. The coaches believe this team could easily be 8-2, not 6-4, in the Ohio Valley.

Yes, that's where TTU resides, the OVC. Where undefeated Murray State plays. The Racers have already beaten 14-9 Tennessee Tech this year, by eight. The rematch comes Feb. 25, the final game of the regular season. Imagine if Murray State has to go into Tennessee Tech with an unbeaten record and goes up against a team with a guy who's scored 50 this season. 

“That was going to be a big game regardless of what’s going on,” Payne said.

And now this. That's what Murphy's game Monday night did. It elevated his profile but also added a layer of drama and intrigue to Murray State's quest. Maybe the Racers will have lost a game by then. But as of now, the Feb. 25 game stands as the second-biggest remaining on the schedule, falling behind the BracketBusters tilt against Saint Mary's.

The only thing Murphy will keep from the game is the ball, which is currently in the hands of TTU’s athletic department. They’re getting it properly decorated before he can take it home.

Posted on: March 5, 2011 10:39 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2011 11:57 pm

Welcome to the Dance: Morehead State Eagles

Fans of the OVC pointed to Saturday night’s tournament finale as a chance to finally settle the score between three-year rivals Morehead State and Murray State once and for all. But after an upset loss to Tennessee Tech on Friday, the Racers weren’t there to watch the Eagles get their second NCAA Tournament berth in three years. Led by the trio of Kenneth Faried, Demonte Harper and Terrance Hill, who scored all but 13 of Morehead State’s points, the Eagles withstood a furious late rally to beat Tennessee Tech 80-73 on Saturday night.

Morehead State is one of the more dangerous teams small conference teams in the field. Blessed with two extremely talented seniors in Faried and Harper, Morehead State has the exact makeup of a Cinderella capable of knocking off a top opponent. The Eagles played Florida to the wire earlier this season and gave a respectable performance on the road at No. 1 Ohio State. As a team, Morehead State has a collective size you do not often see at this level and is unlikely to face any team that has a significant athletic advantage over them.

Player to Watch:  Kenneth Faried  If there were an All-American list for top players outside of the BCS conferences, Faried would surely make the first team. During his outstanding senior season, Kenneth Faried became the NCAA’s all-time leading rebounder, passing one Tim Duncan in the process. He attacks the glass with a ferociousness that recalls the best of Dennis Rodman during his Bad Boy Detroit Pistons days. Throughout his senior season, Faried added to his showcased repertoire by showcasing a new, more developed set of offensive skills. His averages of 17.4 points and 14.6 rebounds a game are downright beastly, regardless of the conference level. He could become a first round pick in June’s NBA draft, but first he will scare the daylights out of whatever No. 2 or 3 seed’s coach has to find a way to keep him off the glass.

Team Vitals

Record: (24-9, 16-5)

Team Colors:  Blue and Gold

We’re Thinking: 15th seed

Kenpom Ranking:  95

RPI:  86

Best win:  Kent State (21-10)

Worst loss:  Eastern Illinois (9-20)

Most recent tournament history: 2009 (lost to Louisville in first round)

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Posted on: March 3, 2011 12:47 pm

Mr. Big Shot resides at Tennessee Tech

Posted by Jeff Borzello

The title of “most clutch player in the country” doesn’t belong to Jimmer Fredette or Kemba Walker or Nolan Smith this season.

It belongs to someone who does not even average double-figures in scoring, Tennessee Tech junior guard Zac Swansey.

Swansey has hit five game-winning shots for the Golden Eagles this year, the latest coming against Jacksonville State last weekend, when he knocked down a 3-pointer with 37 seconds left to give Tech a two-point lead.

“It’s his innate ability to do that,” head coach Mike Sutton said. “When we need someone to make plays, he’s capable of making those plays.”

Swansey has hit game-winners against Eastern Illinois on two separate occasions, as well as Austin Peay, Tennessee State and Jacksonville State.

“It hasn’t really sunk in yet,” he said of the multiple clutch shots. “We’ve had such a good season that I haven’t really thought about it.”

The biggest – and most memorable – one might have been the shot he hit against Austin Peay on the road. After an offensive rebound, Swansey took a pass and pulled up from 22-feet for the winner with two seconds left.

Since then, the Golden Eagles are 10-3 and earned a bye in the Ohio Valley tournament.

“It was a nationally televised game on ESPNU, and they were the number one team in the conference at the time,” Swansey said of the Austin Peay game. “And to go into a hostile environment like that and hit that shot, I loved it.”

“You have to trust guys, it’s not always how you draw it up,” Sutton added.

Swansey’s buzzer-beating ways date back to his days at Georgia, where he spent two seasons before transferring to Tennessee Tech.

While in Athens, Swansey had a couple of up-and-down seasons, but he made one of the more memorable shots of the 2007-08 season, when he hit a turnaround 3-pointer with 1.2 seconds left to beat Kentucky in the SEC Tournament.

Swansey hit three game-winning shots at Georgia, according to Sutton.

“In high school, I didn’t have those opportunities in close games,” Swansey said. “The one against Kentucky when I was at Georgia was my first. And it just stuck with me through the years.”

After head coach Dennis Felton was fired during Swansey’s sophomore season, Swansey thought it was time for a change. Sutton recruited Swansey hard while he was in high school, and wanted him again once he got his release from the Bulldogs.

Sutton, who has also spent time at Kentucky, had high praise for Swansey.

“He’s the kind of player where you can the put the ball in his chest and have him run your team,” Sutton said. “He’s the best overall passer I’ve ever coached, and he really sees the play.”

The transfer has paid off incredibly for both sides, with Swansey leading the Golden Eagles to their best campaign since 2007.

Swansey hit his first game-winner this season in mid-December against Eastern Illinois; ironically, it was his only field goal of the game.

“As a point guard, I’m supposed to find a way to get us wins,” Swansey said. “If that means hitting a game-winning shot, that’s what I’ll do.”

Considering Swansey is the leading assist man in the conference, and Tennessee Tech has an all-conference forward in Kevin Murphy, it might seem strange that Swansey is the go-to-guy down the stretch.

Swansey said not being the focal point of the defense has helped him.

“We have so many scorers, such a balanced team,” he said. “It’s a team effort. I look for opportunities to lift my team and I think my teammates look for me to do that.”

Sutton added that he has complete confidence in Swansey to make the right decisions and get the ball in the right hands, whether it is a teammate’s or his own.

As Tennessee Tech prepares for the quarterfinals of the Ohio Valley tournament, the Golden Eagles have a trump card not many teams can match: a player who is not afraid to take – and make – big shots.

Naturally, they don’t want it come down to that, but Swansey said he wouldn’t hesitate to take a shot to put Tech in the NCAA Tournament. 

“No doubt – and I want that,” he said. “I want the ball in my hands. I have a lot of confidence in myself. If it comes to down to me, that’s what I’ll do.”

Photo: TTUSports.com

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