By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech men's basketball team hits the road for a two-game trip west, first visiting in-state and Ohio Valley Conference rival UT Martin in a Thursday-evening match-up in the Elam Center. Tip is set for 7:30 p.m. CT. Tech will continue the trip with a 4:00 p.m. Saturday tilt at Southeast Missouri.
Tennessee Tech (5-18, 2-8) at UT Martin (6-15, 2-8)
Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020
7:30 p.m. CT
Elam Center (4,300) – Martin, Tenn.
Thursday marks the 52nd meeting all-time between the two programs, with Tech owning a 37-14 lead in the series.
When competing in Martin, the Golden Eagles hold a 15-8 advantage over the Skyhawks all time.
Last season, UT Martin cruised past the Golden Eagles in the Elam Center, 77-58, using a superior shooting display from the field and charity stripe to earn the win.
Hunter Vick led the Tech scoring effort in the loss, hitting 5-of-6 tries from beyond the 3-point arc on his way to 15 points.
The Skyhawks' Quintin Dove led all scorers in the contest with 24 points off the bench, hitting 8-of-12 shots from the field and 8-of-10 attempts from the free-throw line.
This year's UT Martin squad is led offensively by Parker Stewart, the son of head coach Anthony Stewart, who sat out last season after transferring from Pittsburgh. He averages 20.3 points per game. That number rises to 22.7 points per game in OVC play, tied for first in the league with EKU's Jomaru Brown.
Stewart also leads the team with 3.6 assists per game, adds 4.4 rebounds per game and shoots 35.7 percent from beyond the arc.
Quintin Dove ranks just behind Stewart in scoring, averaging 19.3 points and a team-high 7.6 rebounds per contest. He also paces the team with a field goal percentage of 57.0 and free throw percentage of 80.1.
Derek Hawthorne, Jr. rounds out UT Martin's double-digit scorers still with the program, averaging 13.0 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. His 23 steals leads the Skyhawks.
Former Golden Eagle guard Miles Thomas suits up for the Skyhawks, averaging 6.3 points and 3.2 rebounds per game. Thomas sat out the 2016-17 season at Tech as a redshirt before transferring and spending the next two seasons at Walters State CC. He earned NJCAA All-American First Team honors last season after averaging 21.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.6 steals per game.
LAST TIME OUT
Victory seemed a certainty to the fans of Tech basketball Saturday evening as sophomore Jr. Clay converted three free throws with 1.7 seconds left to give the Golden Eagles a three-point lead over visiting Tennessee State.
Fate, as it turned out, had other ideas. The Tigers' Jy'lan Washington banked in a triple at the buzzer to send the contest to overtime. Tennessee State controlled the contest the rest of the way, shocking the Golden Eagles for a 72-67 victory.
Needing to go the full length of the court, TSU's Carlos Marshall, Jr. launched a baseball pass to his own free-throw line. Wesley Harris lept into the air, caught the pass and simultaneously threw it to Washington behind the 3-point line. And just like that, it was overtime.
The Golden Eagles looked strong in the first half of the contest, taking a seven-point lead into the break behind another brilliant shooting performance from sophomore Hunter Vick. The Camden, Tenn. native scored all 15 of his points over the opening 20 minutes, drilling 4-of-5 attempts from downtown on a night where the 3-point shot was tough to come by for the purple and gold.
The struggles proved evident in the second half, as the Tigers opened the stanza on a 17-0 run with Tech missing on its first 12 attempts from deep and making just one of its first 20 shots. The offensive woes kept the Golden Eagles scoreless for almost nine minutes, but the defense kept the home squad in the game, never allowing TSU to pull away by more than 10.
Eventually, Tech found its rhythm and mounted a comeback that saw the team take the lead with just over four minutes to play. Tennessee State tied the contest with a little over 30 seconds on the clock, allowing Tech to hold the ball to the last possible second before Clay drew the foul on his attempt from beyond the arc.
On the night, Tech dominated the offensive glass to the tune of 19-8 and won the overall board battel, 44-42. The purple and gold also forced 20 turnovers in the contest, but it was the tough night from 3-point range, and the field overall, that proved the difference. The Golden Eagles connected on just nine of their season-high 37 tries from deep, a percentage of 24.3.
Named the Special Olympics Player of the Game, Clay led all scorers with 21 points, dropping 15 of them in the second half and overtime. He also dished out five assists, tied his career-high with five steals and snagged five rebounds.
Freshman Keishawn Davidson joined Clay and Vick in double figures with 14 points. The point guard hauled in six boards and tallied four assists.
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