By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech men's basketball team makes its longest road trip of the Ohio Valley Conference season, visiting SIUE and Eastern Illinois in league play Thursday and Saturday. The Golden Eagles will kick off the weekend with a Thursday night tilt in Edwardsville, Ill. against the Cougars. Tip is set for 7:30 p.m. CT.
Tennessee Tech (3-14, 0-4) at SIUE (4-13, 1-3)
Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020
7:30 p.m. CT
Eblen Center (4,000) – Edwardsville, Ill.
Thursday marks the 15th meeting all-time between the two programs, with Tech owning a 10-4 lead in the series.
Last year, SIUE snapped Tech's five-game winning streak in the series, pulling ahead of the Golden Eagles when facing off in Edwardsville as well. The Cougars lead the series when played at the Vadalabene Center, 4-3.
The Golden Eagles had won the previous two meetings in Edwardsville prior to last season and have won every contest played in Cookeville and at neutral sites between the two teams.
Overall, the two teams split last year's series, with Tech holding on to defeat SIUE in overtime, 78-69, in Cookeville. Four Tech starters finished in double figures in the contest.
Hunter Vick led all scorers in the contest with 18 points and chipped in six rebounds. Jr. Clay added 11 points and five assists to the Tech effort. Former Golden Eagle, Micaiah Henry, earned a double-double with 14 points and 10 boards. He also blocked four shots.
The Cougars got revenge at home in the second-to-last contest of the year, defeating the Golden Eagles 76-68.
Clay provided 13 points in the tilt while Henry led the way with 15.
This year's SIUE squad is led offensively by Zeke Moore, who averages 13.5 points per game. He adds 3.7 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game while hitting an astounding 45.5 percent of his attempts from beyond the 3-point line.
Moore actually transferred from Saint Louis to Tennessee Tech in the spring of 2017, but transferred to Tulsa that same fall to be close to family. He transferred to SIUE for this season.
Cam Williams represents the Cougars' other double-digit scorer, averaging 10.9 points with 3.1 rebounds 2.6 assists and 1.3 steals per game.
Tyresse Williford leads SIUE with 4.0 assists and 1.5 steals per contest while adding 9.9 points to the mix. Mike Adewunmi is the team's leading rebounder with 4.9 boards per game, as well as 7.8 points.
Tech turned in an inspired effort to climb back and threaten Murray State all the way to the end of its Eblen Center match-up Saturday evening.
At the conclusion of the contest, the Racers stood on top, 81-69, but it was a win the visitors had to work extra hard for. Murray State looked well on its way to an easy victory over the Golden Eagles, using a 21-0 run to take an 18-point lead at the 11:19 mark of the first half.
Tech chose the path of resilience rather than backing down, answering its long-time, OVC rivals with a 15-0 stretch of its own. The purple and gold continued to claw back, pulling to within a single point at the break thanks to a buzzer-beating triple from Jr. Clay.
Early in the second half, the Golden Eagles evened things at 37-37, but never could find the go-ahead bucket. Tech kept the Racers inside a double-figure lead for much of the final 20 minutes, but a couple of late mini-runs allowed the visitors to extend it out a bit further and pull away.
Clay, named Special Olympics Player of the Game, led all scorers with 18 points on 5-for-11 shooting. He hit two of his three attempts from deep and converted all six of his free throw tries. The Chattanooga native led the team with three steals and added four assists as well.
Both Keishawn Davidson and Darius Allen collected 11 points. A senior transfer, Allen also hauled in a team-high six rebounds while dishing out three assist and hitting three triples. Davidson dished out a team-best five helpers while also connecting on three 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.
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