A game that appeared to be a rout for Tennessee State , ended up being a game the Tigers had to hold on to win ,as they defeated the Panthers of Eastern Illinois 78-74 Thursday night.
The Tigers, building a 15-5 lead on Jr. Clay’s jumper with 12:22 left in the half. Over the course of the half, Tennessee State found success getting into the paint and kicking it out to open shooters, as the Tigers knocked down 8 of their 14 three-point attempts in the opening half, hot shooting from distance combined with the Panthers shooting just 7-28 in the half helped TSU build what would become a twenty point advantage, 40-20 at the half.
In the second half the Panthers made a concerted effort to pound the ball inside, leading to EIU shooting 2-34 in the second half, including 3-6 from downtown. The Panthers were able to hurt the Tigers in the paint, as they methodically began to cut into the TSU lead. EIU cut the lead to ten points at 50-40, on the second of a pair of Caleb Donaldson free throws with 12:54 to go in the half; they would cut the lead to single digits for the first time in the half 48 seconds later on a jumper from Donaldson. A bucket from Adong Makuoi and a three-pointer from Jr. Clay would push the Tiger advantage back to 13 with 10:48 left in the contest. The Panthers would get within single digits multiple times over the course of the game, drawing to within five points with 1:23 on a jumper from Yaakema Rose that made the score 69-64, however over the ensuing 1:19 Tennessee went 9/10 from the foul line to help hold off the surging Panthers. EIU would get as close as three points on a late three from Kinyon Hodges, with 0:04 left in the game.
Marcus Fitzgerald Jr led the way for the victorious Tigers with 26 points , on 5-9 FG, 3-5 3PA and including a perfect 13-13 from the charity stripe; this mark the 5th time this season the sophomore guard has scored 20 or more on the season. Jr. Clay was the other TSU player in double figures with 18 points on 5-13 from the field.
The much-needed win lifts the Tigers to 11-9 overall and 3-4 in the OVC. Tennessee State will look to build on the win when they head to Little Rock on Saturday; tip-off is set for 3:30 pm CST.
Next Game: at Little Rock 1/21/2023 | 3:30 PM ESPN+ 102.1 The Ville