By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech men's basketball kicks off Ohio Valley Conference play Thursday evening, playing the first half of its annual "Death Valley" road trip against Eastern Kentucky in Richmond, Ky. Tip is set for 6:30 p.m. CT, following the conclusion of the women's contest against the Colonels.
Tennessee Tech (3-10, 0-0) at Eastern Kentucky (3-10, 0-0)
Thursday, Jan. 2, 2019
3:00 p.m. CT
Alumni Coliseum (6,500) – Richmond, Ky.
Thursday marks the 139th meeting all-time between the two programs, with Eastern Kentucky owning a 75-63 lead in the series.
When competing in Richmond, the Colonels hold a 43-24 advantage over the Golden Eagles all time.
This match-up marks the fifth-longest series in program history, one of six with 100 or more contests between the two teams.
Last season, the two squads split its two-game series, each team pulling off road victories.
Tech started it with a thrilling, 91-85 triumph in Georgetown, Ky., played on the campus of Georgetown College because of a scheduling conflict at EKU's Alumni Coliseum.
Jr. Clay boasted one of the best performances of his career in the contest, scoring a team-high 22 points while flirting with a triple-double. He hauled in nine rebounds and dished out eight assists while hitting 8-of-11 shots from the field.
Later in the season, EKU held off a valiant comeback effort by the Golden Eagles, edging Tech 67-66 in Cookeville. The purple and gold, trailing by as many as 14 points, had a few opportunities to hit the winning bucket late, but couldn't get a shot to fall.
It was Jared Sherfield's time to shine in the contest, dropping 19 points and eight rebounds to pace the Golden Eagles offensively.
This year's Eastern Kentucky squad is led offensively by Jomaru Brown, who averages 16.8 points per game. He adds 3.4 rebounds per contest while hitting 74.3 percent from the free throw line.
Ty Taylor adds 13.5 points and 3.6 boards per game while firing at a 36.0 percent clip from 3-point range. Also in double figures for the Colonels is Tre King, averaging 10.4 points and 5.7 rebounds.
Darius Hicks leads the team in rebounding with 6.8 per contest. Leading the team in assists with 2.8 per game, is JacQuess Hobbs.
Tech gave Ole Miss fits in the first half of its final non-conference game of the season, taking multiple leads, including a six-point advantage with 4:09 remaining in the first set of 20 and a 32-31 edge into the locker room.
The reality of the situation, however, is that the game still lasts 40 minutes. Ole Miss made adjustments, pulling away for an 80-63 victory on Saturday afternoon as the Rebels outscored the Golden Eagles 49-31 over the final 20.
In the first half, Ole Miss outshot Tech by a slim margin – 41.4 to 39.3 percent – but the Golden Eagles were 3-of-9 from beyond the arc to Ole Miss' 1-for-12, and Tech was more efficient at the charity stripe, knocking down 7-of-8 to the Rebels' 6-for-11.
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