By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech men's basketball team continues its "Death Valley" road swing Saturday evening, facing off against Morehead State in a 3:00 p.m. CT tilt at Johnson Arena in Morehead, Ky. Both teams enter the contest after suffering losses in their respective Ohio Valley Conference openers Thursday evening.
Tennessee Tech (3-11, 0-1) at Morehead State (6-8, 0-1)
Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020
2:00 p.m. CT
Johnson Arena (6,500) – Morehead, Ky.
Saturday marks the 153rd meeting all-time between the two programs, with Morehead State owning an 86-66 lead in the series.
When competing in Morehead, the Eagles hold a 47-16 advantage over the Golden Eagles all time.
This match-up marks the second-longest series in program history, one of six with 100 or more contests between the two teams. Tech's rivalry with Murray State represents the only one with more contests (183).
Morehead has won eight of the past 10 match-ups between the two teams. The two programs have split their season series in two of the past three years, with the home team coming out on top in six of the past seven contests.
The Eagles have won each of their past five home contests against the Golden Eagles. Tech's last victory in Morehead came back on March 1, 2014, a 91-84 barn burner. Morehead State has won 12 of the past 13 match-ups in its home building against the purple and gold.
Last season, Morehead State claimed close victories in both match-ups, a 67-61 win in Morehead followed by a 66-63 win in Cookeville.
In the first meeting last season, Jr. Clay erupted for a career-high 26 points while playing a whopping 39 minutes. He also dished out five helpers.
The second time around, it was Jared Sherfield enjoying a career performance, dropping 20 points on 4-for-5 shooting from downtown. He also snagged a team-high seven rebounds.
Clay added 15 points and seven assists while Hunter Vick chipped in 10 points and five rebounds.
This year's Morehead State squad is led offensively by Jordan Walker, who averages 12.6 points per game. He adds 3.3 rebounds per contest while hitting 70.7 percent from the free throw line.
Djimon Henson adds 10.3 points and 3.6 boards per game while firing at a 36.7 percent clip from 3-point range. Justin Thomas is close behind with 9.6 points and team-highs of 58 assists and 33 steals.
James Baker adds 9.4 points while Tyzhaun Claude leads the team with 6.9 rebounds per game.
Inconsistency was the name of the game Thursday evening, as Tech struggled to find its niche in its OVC opener at Eastern Kentucky, falling 74-59.
A first-half barrage from downtown and relentless full-court press in the opening five minutes put the Golden Eagles in a hole early as the Colonels kicked off the contest on a 9-0 run. That start saw EKU convert four Tech turnovers into four field goals before the purple and gold got on the scoreboard.
Following an EKU timeout, the Colonels took advantage of a cold stretch by the Tech offense with a 14-0 run over nearly five minutes to build its advantage to as much as 23 points. At the break, EKU led it 49-30 behind 56 percent shooting from the floor and an 8-for-16 showing from downtown.
Allen led all scorers in the contest with 16 points and added five boards. Jr. Clay joined his fellow guard in double figures, producing 11 points while tying for the team lead with eight rebounds.
Freshman forward Tujautae Williams also corralled eight boards and scored six points. Hunter Vick hit a trio of triples for nine points off the bench while rookie Keishawn Davidson paced the squad with five assists to go along with four rebounds and four points.
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