Hard-Charging Tigers Fall 76-73
Monday night Kennesaw State held off a furious comeback from the hosting Tennessee State Tigers.
It started slow and ended slow. The true fervor of the Tennessee State (9-5, 0-1) versus Kennesaw State (6-10) game occurred midway through the second half.
With 14:22 to play Head Coach Dana Ford implemented a fullcourt press. The results were undeniable.
“We feel as though we shouldn’t lose to any team we play,” said Tahjere McCall. “When a team comes out and smacks us in the mouth like they did you have to draw the line somewhere. Coach Ford told us, we have to change something.”
TSU instantly forced a turnover. Shortly thereafter they deflected two passes and forced another. Three consecutive possessions ended in turnovers for the visiting Kennesaw State Owls.
With 12:49 left Jordan Jones smashed a dunk on two defensive rebounders, infusing the visitors with pride, ending a modest 4-0 Tiger run.
From that point forward the Tigers snatched the driver’s seat. Racing up the floor McCall finished challenged layup after challenged layup. Wayne Martin really helped out during the run, finishing with 20 points on 9 of eleven shooting.
He scored 13 points after the break. Martin is averaging 17 ppg since Christmas.
With the defensive pressure racheted up, TSU trudged to the hill’s top and peaked over at 62-61, only to be knocked back down.
A pair of Nick Masterson three-pointers pushed KSU back ahead, 67-62 with 2:27 left.
McCall missed a free throw on the ensuing possession. He would miss a critical opportunity to square the game later, as well.
After Masterson’s pair of triples the visiting Owls only needed good free shooting and reliable ball-handling to close it out. They got spotty shooting and good dribbling.
Regardless, a protracted free throw parade, and the game, ended with a Darreon Reddick 20′ offering. It fell short and left off the rim.
The Tigers faltered early defensively. Everyone accepted personal responsibility after the loss.
Owl Nick Masterson scored the first six points for Kennesaw State.
“I felt like it got off to a hot start and we usually make teams work harder for their baskets,” said Jordan Reed. “Number 21 (Masterson) got hot early. I take fault for that.”
The reigning OVC Defensive Player of the Year was displeased with Kendrick Ray’s 20 points. Ray shot 7-16 from the floor and 4-10 from deep.
“He definitely got to us today,” said McCall. “I feel like I am big reason for that. I don’t like the other team’s leading scorer doing that. I got to really strap it on.”
Coach Ford also willfully took the blame for the loss, citing his personnel decisions.
“I got to do a better job with our defensive gameplan,” said Coach Ford. “I have to do a better job of putting the right guys in there.”
Christian Mekowulu earned his first start since a debilitating ACL-injury fall 2016.
Coach Ford decided to start Mekowulu after growing disillusioned by Ken’Darrius Hamilton‘s rebounding and defense of late.
Overall Tennessee State intends to return to their core principles.
“We have to get back to what we do, defense and rebounding,” said McCall.
Neither regular Samson Oyediran nor Xavier Williams played, buried on the depth chart.
Tennessee State hosts Southeast Missouri Thursday night and UT Martin Saturday evening. A two game road trip follows.