By Joshua J. Darling, Sports Information Director
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – In a game of runs, Alabama A&M (0-2, 0-0 SWAC) would come up on the short end as Tennessee State (3-0, 0-0 OVC) delivered commanding stretches to nail down an 87-76 victory in an NCAA Division I men’s basketball game on Monday, November 14.
Junior forward Dailin Smith (Colorado Springs, Colo.) lit it up for a game-high 23 points on 8-of-12 shooting from the field and 7-of-9 at the foul line to pace the Bulldogs while senior guard Garrett Hicks (Madison, Ala.) knocked down 4-of-7 threes for 20 points. Senior guard Cameron Tucker (Birmingham, Ala.) rounded out the top performers with a solid all-around outing, finishing with 13 points, five boards, four assists and four steals.
The Tigers would get off to a fast start as they scored the first seven points only to see A&M come right back with a 9-2 run that knotted it up at 9-9 by the 14:50 mark. It would continue to be a game of runs as TSU drained three triples to fuel a commanding 15-2 run that put them up 24-11 with just under nine minutes to play in the half.
Over the next nearly five minutes the Bulldogs would return serve as they doubled up Tennessee State 14-7 to close to within 31-25 on a throw down by graduate center Olisa Blaise Akonobi (Abuja, Nigeria) with 3:59 on the clock. From there, however, the Tigers would notch a 16-7 run that gave them a 47-32 advantage with eight seconds left before a three by Tucker made it a 12-point deficit at halftime.
A&M would charge out of the gate to start the second half as Hicks and Smith each converted traditional three-point plays and the latter added a jam to power a 10-3 run that cut it to 50-45 less than three-and-a-half minutes in. TSU would get it almost all back, however, as they used a 10-2 run to make it 60-47 by the 12:25 mark.
They would then maintain at least an eight-point advantage over the next 8:34 until the Bulldogs got within 75-68 on a floater by Smith and then exploded for an 11-2 stretch to extend to 86-70. From there they would go on to salt away the 87-76 victory over the remaining 45 seconds.
Christian Brown took charge for TSU with 20 points as he went 6-of-9 from the field and 4-of-5 from long range and Marcus Fitzgerald, Jr. did it all with 17 points, seven boards and five assists. Jr. Clay and Zool Kueth added 13 and 10 points, respectively, to round out the double-figure scorers and Zion Griffin added eight points and seven caroms. Adong Makuoi notched eight points and Justin Williams seven to wrap up the Tigers top performers.
The Bulldogs return home to face Samford on Thursday, November 17. Game time is set for 7 p.m. with the game slated to be the last in Elmore Gymnasium.