By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech men's basketball hits the road for its only action of the week, making a trip north for a Sunday, Dec. 8 match-up against Ohio University. Tip is set for a 1:00 p.m. CT start at the Convocation Center in Athens.
Tennessee Tech (3-6) at Ohio (6-3)
Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019
1:00 p.m. CT
Convocation Center (13,000) – Athens, Ohio
Monday marks the second meeting all-time between the two programs, with Ohio owning a 1-0 lead.
In the only match-up between Tech and Ohio, back on Nov. 25, 2016 in Athens, it was the Bobcats that came away with a 68-57 victory. Only six Ohio players scored in the contest, with Jordan Dartis leading the way with 22 points.
For the Golden Eagles, it was Aleksa Jugovic pacing the offense with 20 points and Kajon Mack kicking in 14 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.
Ohio enters the contest having won each of its past three contests, including the previous two at home. Those included a 91-81 win over Detroit Mercy and a 90-51 victory against Rio Grande. Overall, the Bobcats are 6-3 on the year, with an unblemished, 3-0 mark in the Convocation Center.
Sophomore guard Jason Preston leads the Bobcats in both scoring and assists, posting 16.6 points and 8.7 dimes per game. Jordan Dartis adds 12.9 points on 39.1 percent shooting from 3-point range while Ben Vander Plas rounds out the double-digit scorers for Ohio with 12.8 points per game, as well as 5.7 rebounds.
Sylvester Ogbonda leads the team in rebounding with 6.3 boards per game to go along with 7.7 points on 65 percent shooting from the field.
The Bobcats are led by head coach and former Ohio captain Jeff Boals, who is in his first year at the top of the program. He spent the previous three seasons as the head coach of Stony Brook, guiding the Seawolves to an overall record of 55-41, including a 31-17 mark in America East Conference play.
Last season, he led Stony Brook to a 24-8 record (12-4 AEC) and its second postseason appearance in three seasons.
The Golden Eagles claimed a no-doubt victory over Reinhardt Monday evening, discharging the visiting Eagles 86-47.
Tech held a 36-35 advantage headed into the locker room at the break, but a frigid start from the field to start the second half doomed the team's chances in pulling out the victory.
The purple and gold went bananas to open the contest in the Hooper Eblen Center, sinking nine of its first 10 shots from the field to work up a monster 20-0 lead over the first four-and-a-half minutes.
It was junior Larry Kuimi, one of three stars of the night, leading the charge early by scoring five of the team's first seven baskets. The forward eclipsed his season-high for scoring in the opening four minutes, posting 10 of the team's first 15 points. Kuimi finished the contest with 12 points on 6-for-9 shooting and six rebounds.
Defensively, the Golden Eagles were dominant, particularly in the first half when they held the visiting Eagles to just 20 points and none from inside the paint. Tech collected 18 of its 44 first-half points in the block while owning the glass with a distinct advantage of 27-13.
Making his first career start, local Sparta native Cade Crosland erupted for a career-high and game-leading 17 points on his way to Special Olympics Player of the Game honors. He drilled a career-high five of his 10 shots from beyond the arc and even, to his own account, attempted a dunk.
Sophomore guard Jr. Clay flirted with a triple-double on the night, distributing six assists to just three turnovers, scoring 15 points on 6-for-10 shooting, and corralling a game-high eight rebounds. The Chattanooga native enjoyed his third strong showing in-a-row after racking up nine dimes at Winthrop and dropping 17 points at home against Lipscomb in his previous two games.
With an 83-70 win over Martin Methodist on November 9, Tech head coach John Pelphrey earned his first victory as the leader of the Golden Eagle program.
Pelphrey, who was named the 13th head coach in Golden Eagle history in April, also earned career win No. 150 on the night, the same day the Tech football team earned its 150th victory in Tucker Stadium on the day they celebrated the 150th anniversary of college football.
Both Davidson and Sylla were honored by the OVC on Nov. 11, picking up two of the league's first three weekly honors of the 2019-20 campaign. Davidson was named OVC Freshman of the Week while Sylla was recognized as the OVC Newcomer of the Week.
It marked the first time since 2015-16 that Tech claimed two of the OVC's three weekly accolades.
The last time it occurred was Feb. 1, 2016 when Torrance Rowe won OVC Player of the Week and both Ryan Martin and Hakeem Rogers shared OVC Newcomer of the Week honors.
Tech was predicted to finish 12th overall in the 2019 OVC race in voting by the league's head coaches and SIDs.
The 2019-20 Tech roster features 17 players (13 scholarship student-athletes) representing five states and three countries.
Nine Golden Eagle players hail from the state Tennessee, while Florida and Texas each boast two Tech players. Alabama and Illinois are represented by one Tech player each.
Two international players round out the roster, including one Golden Eagle from Canada and another from Mali.
Tech has three seniors, three juniors, five sophomores, three redshirt freshmen and three true freshmen.
Eleven Golden Eagles stand 6-foot-5 or taller while the other six measure in at 6-foot-4 or shorter.
While the 2019-20 Golden Eagles welcomed in seven new faces to the roster this season, that number doesn't show just how little this team spent together coming into the season. In addition to a brand new coaching staff, 10 of Tech's 17 players had never suited up for the Golden Eagles heading into the season-opener.
Tech players that have or could make their Golden Eagle debut in 2019-20 are senior transfer Darius Allen, JUCO transfers Larry Kuimi, Amadou Sylla and Michael Lolio, true freshmen Keishawn Davidson, Dane Quest and Tujautae Williams, and redshirt freshmen Chase Ridenour, Caden Mills and Reece Wilkinson.
The 2019-20 Tech roster came into the year with just 58 combined starts at the Division I level, inlcuding 31 by Hunter Vick, 19 by Jr. Clay, four by Garrett Golday, three by Jared Sherfield and one by Darius Allen (at Baylor).
Season tickets for Tennessee Tech basketball are on sale now. Call (931) 372-3940, visit the Hooper Eblen Center ticket office, or log on to TTUSports.com to order yours today.
Photo by Thomas Corhern