By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech men's basketball returns to action after more than a week away from the hardwood, heading to Nashville for a rematch with in-state foe Lipscomb Tuesday evening. Tip is set for a 6:30 p.m. CT start at Allen Arena.
Tennessee Tech (3-7) at Lipscomb (4-6)
Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2019
6:30 p.m. CT
Allen Arena (5,028) – Nashville, Tenn.
Tuesday marks the 53rd meeting all-time between the two programs, with Tech owning a commanding 42-10 lead in the series.
When visiting the Bisons in Nashville, Tech owns a 17-6 record. Lipscomb has won three of the last four meetings in Allen Arena, including the most recent, a 104-85 decision back on Dec. 1, 2016.
Tech's last victory in Nashville over the Bisons came one year earlier, a Dec. 5, 2015 match-up that featured an 84-79 triumph for the Golden Eagles.
The two teams squared off just three weeks ago in the Hooper Eblen Center, with Lipscomb pulling off the victory, 78-65. Tech led the contest at the break, 36-35, but a frigid, 3-for-18 start to the second half put the Golden Eagles in a hole they could just not climb out of.
Sophomore Jr. Clay was the lead man for the Cookeville squad, scoring a team-high 17 points off the bench. He hit 4-of-8 tries from 3-point range and finished shooting 50 percent from the field as well.
In its most recent tilt, back on Dec. 8, Lipscomb snapped a two-game skid since facing off with Tech by defeating Trevecca Nazarene 96-72 in Nashville. The Bisons had dropped back-to-back road games at Xavier (87-62) and in-state rival Belmont (80-75).
KJ Johnson has been the offensive force behind the Bisons this season, leading the team in scoring with 15.3 points per game while shooting 52 percent from the floor, 36 percent from downtown and nearly 84 percent from the charity stripe.
Big man Ahsan Asadullah averages a double-double for Lipscomb, securing 10.1 boards per game while also dumping 14.8 points through the rim per contest. He also leads the team with 2.9 assists and 1.3 blocks per game. Andrew Fleming rounds out the team's double-digit scorers, averaging 10.4 points per tilt.
Last time out, the Golden Eagles dropped a road contest to the Ohio Bobcats, 81-54, up in Athens.
Trailing by 14 at the break, the Golden Eagles didn't just keep pace with the Bobcats to open the second half, they also outplayed them. Tech outscored Ohio 21-16 over the opening nine minutes, cutting the deficit to 11. Miscues proved costly thereafter, as the purple and gold never could claw closer.
In the opening stanza, it was senior Cade Crosland providing the spark while making his second-consecutive start. He led Tech with six points at the break after a pair of triples, including a late trey to snap a 16-2 run by Ohio.
Sophomore guard Jr. Clay carried the offensive load out of halftime, scoring 12 of his team-high 14 points in the opening seven minutes. Amadou Sylla ended his night with nine points and five rebounds.
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