By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech men's basketball team returns to the hardwood Saturday evening, playing host in long-time rival Murray State in a 7:30 p.m. CT showing in the Hooper Eblen Center. The contest will follow the Golden Eagle women's tilt with the Racers, which is slated for a 5:30 p.m. tip.
Tennessee Tech (3-13, 0-3) vs. Murray State (10-5, 3-0)
Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020
7:30 p.m. CT
Eblen Center (7,500) – Cookeville, Tenn.
Saturday marks the 184th meeting all-time between the two programs, with Murray State owning a 133-50 lead in the series.
The Racers also own a 48-38 series lead over the Golden Eagles when playing in Cookeville.
Tech has squared off against Murray State more than any other team in program history and the same holds true for the Racers. The two sides kicked off the rivalry during the 1929-30 season, meeting at least once in all but three seasons during that span.
The Racers have won each of the past four meetings between the two programs, including both of teams' match-ups in 2017-18 and last year's tilt. Tech won back-to-back contests during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 campaigns prior to Murray State's four-game streak.
Last season, the purple and gold nearly shocked the then 16-4 Racers, holding a six-point lead with under five minutes to play. Murray State jumped back in front with just under two minutes in the contest and held on with free throws late to win 67-63.
The eventual No. 2 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, Ja Morant, led all scorers in the contest with 28 points, including a 9-for-11 showing at the line. Tech did manage the star point guard into nine turnovers on the year, part of 17 by the Racers.
This year's Murray State squad is led offensively by Tevin Brown, who averages 17.4 points per game. He adds 5.4 rebounds , 3.1 assists and 1.3 steals per game, all while hitting an astounding 43.4 percent of his attempts from beyond the 3-point line. That figure leads the OVC by any player who has attempted at least 60 triples on the year.
KJ Williams adds to the potent Racer offense, producing 11.9 points and 6.9 rebounds per contest. He shoots at a 57.4 percent clip from the field.
Rounding out Murray State's double-digit scorers is Anthony Smith with 10.3 points per game. He also leads the team with 7.6 boards per contest while shooting 57.1 percent from the floor. DaQuan Smith directs the offense with 3.8 assists per game.
A second-half surge nearly turned into an improbable comeback bid for Tech Thursday evening, but OVC and in-state rival Austin Peay held on to defeat the Golden Eagles in the Eblen Center, 75-62.
It was slow cooking early for both offenses, but the Governors found some momentum late in the opening stanza to take a 35-24 lead over the Golden Eagles into the locker room.
After the Govs extended their advantage to 51-32 with 14:27 remaining on the clock, Tech went to work, beginning with a huge 3-pointer from Jr. Clay. Less than a minute later, the point guard dropped another one from nearly the exact same spot to answer a bucket by Austin Peay.
Tech forced a turnover and scored quickly, prompting the visitors to call a timeout to regroup. The break didn't faze the Golden Eagles, who scored twice more to cut the deficit to single digits with just over 10 minutes to play.
While the 12-2 run would eventually end, the young home squad continued to chip away at the Austin Peay lead. With just over five minutes left on the clock, Clay drove the court for a fast-break lay-up to trim the deficit to five.
It would represent the closest the Tech comeback bid would come however, as the offense struggled to keep pace with the OVC Preseason Player of the Year, Terry Taylor, down the stretch. The junior finished the contest with game-highs of 27 points and 12 rebounds.
Clay led the Golden Eagles with his first 20-point showing of the season, finishing the contest 8-for-15 from the floor and 3-for-4 from deep. He added four assists and two steals.
Darius Allen joined him in double figures, narrowly missing a double-double with 10 points and nine boards. He also connected on a trio of triples while racking up three steals.
Freshman Keishawn Davidson posted a team-high six assists while also tallying eight points and three steals. Senior guard Cade Crosland matched his fellow backcourt pal with eight points, including a pair of treys.
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.
Photo by Thomas Corhern