COOKEVILLE, Tenn. — Eastern Illinois overcame a sluggish start to finish strong as the Panthers won on the road Saturday night with a 67-60 win at Tennessee Tech.
EIU improved to 10-7 overall, 3-1 in the OVC. TTU fell to 6-11 overall, 2-2 in the OVC.
After trailing by as many as 12 points in the first half, EIU tied the game on a Mack Smith 3-pointer in the opening minute of the second half. Josiah Wallace gave EIU its first lead of the game with a 3-pointer with 17:07 left in the game. Wallace finished with a team-high 15 points.
The Panthers once again received great production from their freshmen on the floor. Cam Burrell helped spark a 10-2 run midway through the second half that gave EIU a 44-38 lead. Burrell finished with nine points and two steals.
Shareef Smith would give EIU its biggest lead of the game with 2:15 left in the game as his 3-pointer made it 60-51. Mack Smith would help close out the game at the line making 5-of-6 at the stripe in the final 25 seconds. EIU was 14-of-18 from the free-throw line for the game. Smith finished with 14 points.
Eastern Illinois closed the first half with a 10-0 run over the final 3:25 of the first half to trim a 12-point deficit down to two points at the half despite shooting just 33 percent over the first 20 minutes.
Tennessee Tech opened the game with an 8-0 run with EIU scoring its first basket 5:20 into the game on a lay-up by Shareef Smith. The Golden Eagles pushed the lead to 10 points on a 3-pointer by Hunter Vick. A layup by Jared Sherfield with 3:45 remaining in the first half gave TTU a 27-15 lead.
Ben Harvey scored 6 points in the Panthers' run to end the first half. Harvey finished with 12. EIU’s first-half defense forced ten TTU turnovers resulting in ten points off turnovers. The Panthers forced 18 Golden Eagles turnovers on the night resulting in 22 points off turnovers.
Despite being undersized on the glass, EIU won the battle on the boards finishing with a 43-28 advantage. JaQualis Matlock pulled down seven rebounds with four on the offensive glass.
Vick finished 20 points to lead TTU with 4 points coming in the final 21 seconds as EIU was defending the three as they held a 6-point lead. Corey Tillery added 13 points.
The Panthers are to play host to Murray State Thursday in a conference contest at 7 p.m.