By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech men's basketball team plays host to in-state and Ohio Valley Conference foe Belmont Thursday evening in a nationally televised match-up at 8:00 p.m. CT. The contest will be broadcast on ESPNU right from the Hooper Eblen Center and will follow the women's contest, which is slated for a 5:00 p.m. tip.
Tennessee Tech (5-16, 2-6) vs. Belmont (14-7, 5-3)
Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020
8:00 p.m. CT
Eblen Center (7,500) – Cookeville, Tenn.
Thursday marks the 26th meeting all-time between the two programs, with Tech owning a 14-11 lead in the series.
When competing in Cookeville, the Golden Eagles hold a 12-4 advantage over the Bruins all time.
Tech won the first 11 match-ups with the Bruins in the all-time series, which began during the 1956-57 campaign.
Belmont won both contests in last seasons' series, defeating Tech 79-67 in Nasvhille before traveling to Cookeville and crusing to a 93-65 win over the Golden Eagles on their home court.
Tech currently ranks tied for second among OVC teams in terms of regular-season victories against Belmont since the team joined the league in the 2012-13 season. The Golden Eagles, Murray State and Eastern Kentucky all boast three wins against the Bruins, trailing only Jacksonville State's five. The Gamecocks have won each of their last four regular-season meetings with the Bruins, and five straight total games including the OVC Tournament.
Former Golden Eagle Malik Martin led Tech with 17 points while fellow former Tech hoopers Courtney Alexander II and Micaiah Henry added 11 and 10 points, respectively. Jr. Clay also scored in double figures with 12 points.
In the rematch, Clay paced the Tech offense, dropping 20 points with eight rebounds. Hunter Vick collected 15 points, four rebounds and three steals.
This year's Belmont squad is led offensively by Adam Kunkel, who averages 17.0 points per game. He adds 2.8 rebounds per contest while hitting 40.8 percent from 3-point range and 80.3 percent from the free throw line.
Nick Muszynski adds 15.6 points and 6.9 boards per game while firing at a 62.1 percent clip from the field. He also leads the OVC with 1.7 blocks per game while ranking third in field goal percentage.
Also in double figures for the Bruins is Tyler Scanlon, averaging 12.2 points and 4.9 rebounds.
Grayson Murphy leads the team in assists with 6.5 per contest and in rebounds with 8.0 per game. He also leads the team in steals with 2.1 per tilt.
Four different Bruins shoot above 40 percent from beyond the arc, including Scanlon (44.1), Myszynski (41.7), Caleb Hollander (41.4) and Kunkel (40.8).
The turnover battle proved to be the difference maker in Saturday evening's contest between Tech and Eastern Kentucky.
The purple and gold fought back from multiple double-digit deficits, but ultimately came up short, falling to EKU 80-74. The Golden Eagles came out on top in most facets of the game, but it wasn't enough to overcome the Colonels' advantage in the turnover column or from beyond the 3-point line.
Eastern Kentucky forced 20 Tech miscues on the night and coupled it with a 10-for-23 showing from 3-point range. The Golden Eagles fired at a 51.8 percent clip from the floor, out-rebounded the Colonels, 38-26, and doubled their opponent's second-chance production. Tech also led the game in points in the paint, fast-break scores and bench points.
The Tech offense was very distributed on the night, with all 10 Golden Eagles seeing game action scoring at least two points. Jr. Clay led the effort with 14 points while hitting a trio of treys and snagging five rebounds.
Freshmen guards Tujautae Williams and Keishawn Davidson each contributed 10 points. Williams snagged seven boards while Davidson chipped in four assists. Also in double figures was sophomore Amadou Sylla, who turned in 10 points, eight rebounds and two blocks.
Redshirt freshman and the Special Olympics Player of the Game, Reece Wilkinson, enjoyed a solid night, finishing 4-for-4 with a season-high nine points. He also collected four rebounds.
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, including 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