By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech men's basketball closes out its home portion of 2019 Saturday evening, returning to the Hooper Eblen Center to host Western Carolina in the second part of an afternoon doubleheader with the Golden Eagle women's basketball program. Tip for the men's game is set for 4:00 p.m. CT and will follow the conclusion of the women's contest at 2:00 p.m.
Tennessee Tech (3-8) vs. Western Carolina (7-3)
Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019
4:00 p.m. CT
Eblen Center (7,500) – Cookeville, Tenn.
Tuesday marks the eighth meeting all-time between the two programs, with Tech owning a 5-2 lead in the series.
When competing in Cookeville, the Golden Eagles hold a 3-0 advantage over the Catmounts all time. The two teams each possess a victory at unknown locations as well.
The two teams haven't met since the 1990-91 season, which featured a home-and-home series.
Tech earned an easy 107-87 victory in Cookeville on Dec. 22, 1990. Just over a month later, on Jan. 30, 1991, Western Carolina got its revenge in Cullowhee, defeating the Golden Eagles 83-74.
Prior to the 1990-91 seasons, the two squads hadn't faced off since 1976.
In the 1990-91 contest in Cookeville, it was John Best pacing the Tech crew with a team-high 20 points, as well as seven rebounds. Jerome Rodgers contributed 16 points while both Bobby McWilliams and Bruce Oglesby added 15 points apiece to the effort. Mitch Cupples rounded out the double-digit scoring efforts with 10 points.
During the rematch in Cullowhee, McWilliams and Oglesby again posted matching performances with 19 points each. Best chipped in 11 while Rodgers added eight points and 11 boards. Van Usher flirted with a triple-double, sporting seven points, six rebounds and 11 assists.
A hot start wasn't enough to make up for a second half of offensive inconsistency as the Golden Eagles fell to in-state rival Lipscomb in Nashville Tuesday evening, 78-60.
Tech opened the contest on fire, putting together an early 11-0 run for a 14-4 lead that forced the Bisons to use a timeout. The offense was humming in the first stanza to the tune of 47.8 percent shooting from the field and a 7-for-12 showing from beyond the arc.
Forcing the home team into 11 miscues helped Tech take a 37-33 advantage into the locker room. The tables quickly turned when the two teams took to the floor, with the script flipping in several ways.
Lipscomb found a rhythm on offense, firing at a 53 percent clip from the floor while forcing 10 Tech turnovers.
Amadou Sylla snagged a team-high 11 rebounds and Keishawn Davidson sported six points, three boards and a pair of assists. Freshman Tujautae Williams established a season-high with 11 points off the bench, shooting 5-for-8 from the field while also corralling six rebounds.
Prior to the contest at Lipscomb, Coach Pelphrey and his staff named the team's fifth captain in freshman point guard Keishawn Davidson. Also serving as captains for the young Tech squad in 2019-20 are sophomores Jr. Clay, Hunter Vick and Amadou Sylla, as well as senior Cade Crosland.
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).
Photo by Thomas Corhern