MOREHEAD, Ky. - Thirty-four seconds into the second half, the Morehead State Eagles found themselves trailing by 22 points to a Tennessee State team that was hitting nearly 70 percent of its field goal attempts and had made 11 of its 13 three-pointers. But, led by its post tandem of junior Leon Buchanan and freshman Kenneth Faried, MSU rallied for an 84-76 win over the Tigers Thursday (Feb. 28) evening in Johnson Arena, and in doing so, secured a first-round home game in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament that begins next Tuesday (March 4).
Morehead State, now 15-13 overall, and 12-7 in the OVC, moved into a tie for second place in league standings with Murray State who lost at Tennessee Tech on Thursday. Regardless of the outcome of the Eagles' home game Saturday against regular season champion Austin Peay, MSU will have either a two or three seed in tournament.
Buchanan and Faried scored 23 points each. Buchanan had a game-high 10 rebounds, and Faried had nine rebounds. MSU also got 12 points from sophomore Maze Stallworth and nine points each from senior guards Jamyron Steward and Nikola Stojakovic.
Tennessee State, now 12-16 overall and 9-10 and in eighth place in the OVC, got a game-high 24 points from freshman Gerald Robinson. Bruce Price had 15 points, Ladarious Weaver had 11 points, and Reiley Ervin had nine points and a game-high nine assists.
"To be honest, I'm truly not surprised that we found a way to win this game," said MSU Coach Donnie Tyndall. "I knew with the character of the young men in our locker room, we would make a game out of it in the second half. Then, we made plays down the stretch and won it. Every young man that got in the game for us made a big play.
"In the first half, I didn't think that TSU was going to miss a shot. They made some tough, contested shots and hit 10-of-12 three pointers."
While shooting 68 percent from the field (17-of-25), including 83.3 percent (10-of-12) from behind the arc, and making all four of its free throw attempts in the first half, the Tigers led 48-29 at intermission. After MSU missed its first second half field goal attempt, Andrae Belton drained a three-pointer to give TSU its biggest lead of the game at 51-29.
The Eagles then began picking away at the Tiger lead. By the 11:26 mark of the second half, the lead was under 10 points. With 3:17 left in the game, a Stojakovic lay-up gave MSU a 69-68 lead, and the Eagles never trailed again, making 13 of their final 16 free throws.
TSU finished the game shooting 54.7 percent to 44.1 percent for MSU. The Tigers made only one of their final eight three-point attempts. MSU made 26-of-31 free throws to six-of-10 for TSU.
The rebound battle belonged to the Eagles, 37-to-26. MSU gave up 23 points off of 12 turnovers in the first half, then made only one turnover in the second period.
Austin Peay will bring a 20-10 overall record and a 15-4 OVC mark to Johnson Arena for the regular season finale on Saturday (March 1). That game is a part of a league doubleheader with the women's game scheduled for 5:15 p.m. EST and the men's game for 7:30 p.m. EST. MSU's only two seniors, Steward and Stojakovic, will be honored prior to the men's game.