By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech men's basketball team will take a quick break from road action and return to the Hooper Eblen Center to host Ohio Valley Conference foe Jacksonville State Thursday evening. The single contest will tip at 6:00 p.m. CT and tickets must be purchased separately from the tickets used to attend the women's Education Day game at 11:00 a.m.
The men's contest will represent Gold Rush, with fans encouraged to deck out the arena in gold while free gold t-shirts will be thrown out to the crowd throughout the game.
Tennessee Tech (6-19, 3-9) vs. Jacksonville State (10-15, 5-7)
Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020
6:00 p.m. CT
Eblen Center (7,500) – Cookeville, Tenn.
Saturday marks the 38th meeting all-time between the two programs, with Tech owning a 21-17 lead in the series.
When competing in Cookeville, the Golden Eagles hold a 12-7 advantage over the Gamecocks all time.
Jacksonville State has won each of the past five meetings between the two schools, and six of the past seven. Prior to that run, Tech had won six of seven match-ups with the Gamecocks.
Last season, the Gamecocks claimed both match-ups between the two programs, starting with a dominant defensive showing in their 65-48 win over Tech in Jacksonville.
Former Golden Eagle Micaiah Henry represented the only Tech player in double figures, scoring 11 points with five rebounds.
In the rematch in Cookeville, Jacksonville State used a great first half to claim a 67-57 victory in the Eblen Center.
Healthy in his second appearance against the Gamecocks, Clay dropped a team-high 17 points with five assists and five steals.
Hunter Vick scored 13 while corralling a career-high eight rebounds. Golday produced a then career-high 11 points with six boards while making his second career start.
This year's Jacksonville State squad is led offensively by Jacara Cross, who averages 12.0 points and 4.4 rebounds. He also leads the Gamecocks with a 63.4 field goal percentage.
De'Torrion Ware ranks next for JSU in scoring with 11.3 points and 4.8 boards per game. He shoots 35.1 percent from 3-point range as well.
Kayne Henry, the reigning OVC Newcomer of the Week, averages 10.6 points and team-highs of 6.8 rebounds, 23 steals and 18 blocks.
Derrick Cook paces the Gamecocks with 3.4 assists per game, adding 5.8 points and 3.1 rebounds to the mix.
LAST TIME OUT
Victory on the hardwood typically comes down to execution when it matters most. That was indeed the case for the Tech men's basketball team Saturday afternoon, as the Golden Eagles eked out a 62-60 victory at Southeast Missouri behind two clutch free throws and a huge defensive stop.
With under 10 seconds to play and the score knotted at 60, Jr. Clay drove into the paint looking for an opening to give his team the lead. The sophomore smartly acknowledged the lack of room to produce what he wanted and kicked the ball out to an open Dane Quest in the corner.
Quest made his way to the middle of the paint, gathered his balance and went up for a shot, drawing a foul with 5.7 seconds on the clock. The freshman proceeded to knock down a pair of freebies like a seasoned veteran, giving the Golden Eagles back the lead they had held virtually all day.
Tech then held its own on the defensive end of the court, never allowing the Redhawks to get off a shot.
While Quest saved his heroics for the final seconds, it was forward Garrett Golday that shouldered the load for the Golden Eagles on the day. The sophomore scored a career-high and team-high 13 points in just 14 minutes off the bench, finishing the game 6-for-9 from the floor. Five of the buckets came inside the paint, where the youngster dominated in short spurts.
Tech did kick off the game with a torrid start, scoring 17 points prior to the first media timeout while making seven of its first eight shots from the field. The pace slowed from that point on, but by the break, the Golden Eagles held a 37-26 advantage while shooting over 48 percent from the floor.
Turnovers and fouls plagued the purple and gold in the second half, allowing the Redhawks to creep their way back into the contest. Tech never panicked, however, always seeming to find just enough of an answer to keep the home squad from ever taking a lead. That, and winning the rebound battle 34-29, paid dividends as the Golden Eagles earned their second road win in OVC play and first victory in Cape Girardeau since 2011.
Clay, who battled foul trouble the majority of the night and was limited to 24 minutes, scored 11 points to make it 18-straight games in double figures for the Chattanooga native.
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