By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech men's basketball team gets its first taste of Ohio Valley Conference action in the comfort of the Hooper Eblen Center this season, playing host to in-state rival Austin Peay Thursday evening in a 6:00 p.m. CT tilt. The men's contest will follow the Tech women's team's match-up with the Governors, which will be televised nationally on ESPNU at 4:00 p.m.
Fans who arrive at the Hoop before 4:30 p.m. will receive free admission to both the women's and men's games. Thursday will celebrate Upper Cumberland Night, Faculty and Staff Appreciation Night, and Youth Basketball Night. Fans that live in the Upper Cumberland region will receive $3 discounted tickets after 4:30 p.m., Tennessee Tech faculty and staff will receive free admission to either game with a valid Eagle Card and receive $3 discounted admission for their family and spouses, and young aspiring basketball athletes can wear their jerseys to Thursday's game and receive free admission. Also, the first 500 fans to arrive at the Hoop will receive a free Pepsi and a voucher for free popcorn.
Tennessee Tech (3-12, 0-2) vs. Austin Peay (8-7, 2-0)
Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020
6:00 p.m. CT
Eblen Center (7,500) – Cookeville, Tenn.
Saturday marks the 145th meeting all-time between the two programs, with Tech owning a 74-70 lead in the series.
The Golden Eagles also own a 38-27series lead over the Governors when playing in Cookeville.
This match-up marks the longest in-state rivalry for the Golden Eagles and third-longest running series in terms of contests in program history. Tech has only faced Murray State (183) and Morehead State (153) more often than Austin Peay.
Tech has won three of the past five and seven of the past 10 match-ups between the two programs.
The Golden Eagles swept the season series in both 2016-17 and 2017-18, while the Govs claimed victory in the lone meeting last season, snapping a three-game win streak by Tech.
In last year's tilt, Austin Peay used a strong first-half to gain a lead and keep it in a 77-66 victory in Cookeville. The Govs forced 24 turnovers by the Golden Eagles while committing just nine themselves.
Tech did dominate the glass in the contest, securing 43 total rebounds to Austin Peay's 32.
Austin Peay head coach Matt Figger gained his first Division I coaching experience under none other than Tech head man John Pelphrey. Figger served as an assistant Coach on Pelphrey's staff at South Alabama from 2003-07.
Figger made the move to Fayetteville, Ark. when Pelphrey was named the head coach of the Arkansas program, serving as the team's director of operations from April to June of 2007 before leaving for an assistant coaching position at Kansas State that summer.
This year's Austin Peay squad is led offensively by Terry Taylor, who averages a league-high 23.6 points per game to rank fourth nationally in scoring. He also leads the OVC in rebounding, hauling in 9.2 boards per game. Taylor shoots 58.1 percent from the field and also averages 1.3 blocks and 1.3 steals per contest.
Jordyn Adams represents the Govs' other double-figure scorer, averaging 15.6 points while shooting 75.8 percent from the charity stripe. He adds 3.8 rebounds per game.
Leading the Govs in assists is Antwuan Butler with 4.0 per contest. He has also collected a team-best 1.5 steals per game while averaging 8.1 points.
James Baker adds 9.4 points while Tyzhaun Claude leads the team with 6.9 rebounds per game.
A valiant, second-half effort was not enough to overcome a lights-out, shooting performance from downtown by Morehead State, as Tech fell on the road Saturday afternoon, 83-72.
Wrapping up its OVC opening weekend, Tech struggled early to get the offense rolling while Morehead State used a dominant showing from the field and beyond the arc to build a large halftime lead of 49-27. In the opening stanza, the hometown Eagles fired at a 53 percent clip from the floor and drilled 7-of-12 tries from 3-point range, all while holding Tech to just 30 and 20 percent from the same areas, respectively.
There was no questioning the Golden Eagle mentality coming out of the locker room following the break, as the purple and gold quickly threw together an 11-0 run over nearly four minutes to shave down the deficit to just eight points.
In the second half alone, the Golden Eagles out-paced Morehead 45-34 in scoring, with six blocks, four steals and 19 rebounds. The team also only turned the ball over twice while dishing out eight assists and shooting 50 percent from the floor.
Jr. Clay led the offensive attack, scoring a team-high 17 points with a trio of triples. Keishawn Davidson also drilled three treys, posting 15 points. Jared Sherfield rounded out the Golden Eagles in double figures, chipping in 13 points off the bench.
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