By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech men's basketball team will look to make it three straight wins Saturday evening, heading to Nashville for an Ohio Valley Conference tilt with in-state rival Tennessee State. Tip for the rematch is set for 7:30 p.m. CT and will follow the women's game, which is set for a 5:30 p.m. start.
Tennessee Tech (7-19, 4-9) at Tennessee State (15-11, 7-6)
Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020
7:30 p.m. CT
Gentry Center (9,100) – Nashville, Tenn.
Saturday marks the 70th meeting all-time between the two programs, with Tech owning a 35-34 lead in the series. Not the oldest rivalry for either program, the two teams have made up for lost time with more than 65 match-ups since the first contest on Feb. 4, 1980.
When competing in Nashville, the all-time series is knotted up at 17 wins apiece, with Golden Eagles claiming the most recent.
Last year, the two teams split the season series, with each program collecting victories on the road.
In Nashville, the Golden Eagles used six straight free throws to squeak out a 66-64 victory over the Tigers on their home floor.
Trailing by five, the Tigers' Tripp Davis drew a foul on a 3-point attempt with four seconds to play and went on to make the first two attempts, cutting the Tech advantage to 66-63. His third attempt clanked off the rim, but with the ball popping off of several players' fingertips, Davis corralled his own miss and drew another foul.
After a timeout, Davis sunk his first attempt, knowing he had to miss his second try intentionally with just seventh tenths of a second remaining in regulation and hope for a tip-in. He nearly received just that as Stokley Chaffee Jr. grabbed the intentional miss and threw up a shot that caught every bit of the rim.
Thankfully for the Golden Eagles, it caught too much, rolling off and preserving a tough, well-earned victory to kick off the conference season. Jr. Clay led Tech with 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting in the contest.
Back in Cookeville, the Tigers exacted some revenge, defeating Tech 79-62 in a nationally televised contest on ESPNU. Former Golden Eagle Corey Tillery paced the purple and gold with 20 points.
Earlier this season, the Tigers bested the Golden Eagles in a thrilling, overtime finish, 72-67.
With the score tied at 61, Jr. Clay drew a foul with 1.7 seconds to play in regulation and hit a trio of free throws to give Tech the lead. TSU answered, as Jy'lan Washington banked in a buzzer-beating, game-tying triple to force the extra stanza. The Tigers then outscored Tech, 11-6, in overtime.
Clay led the purple and gold with 21 points, five rebounds, five assists and five steals while Keishawn Davidson added 14 points, six boards and four dimes.
Hunter Vick contributed 15 points off four 3-pointers while playing 33 minutes off the bench.
This year's Tennessee State squad is led offensively by Carlos Marshall, Jr., who averages 12.6 points per game. He adds 4.5 rebounds per contest while hitting 79.2 percent from the free-throw line.
Michael Littlejohn enters the contest averaging 11.0 points, 3.4 assists and 1.2 steals while pacing the Tigers in 3-point shooting. His 69 makes from beyond the arc ranks tied for second in the league while his 42.6 percent efficiency from deep ranks in the top-five.
Wesley Harris and Jy'lan Washington and add double-figure scoring averages to the mix as well. Harris scores 10.8 points per game while leading the team with 6.0 rebounds per contest.
Washington contributes 10.5 points per game while shooting over 60 percent from the floor and averaging 5.3 boards. Mark Freeman leads the team with 4.1 assists per game.
LAST TIME OUT
Former walk-on and local Sparta native Cade Crosland lived a dream Thursday evening, connecting on a triple with 7.7 seconds on the clock to lift the Tech men's basketball team to a 75-74 victory over visiting Jacksonville State. The Golden Eagles then held the Gamecocks defensively on the final possession, as Jr. Clay got a fingertip on a last-second effort to secure the team's second win in-a-row.
The contest featured many ups-and-downs from the very beginning, with Jacksonville State opening the contest on an 8-0 run. Tech took its first lead of the game, fittingly on a trey from Crosland, halfway through the first stanza, 20-17. The Gamecocks answered with an 11-0 run, but Tech responded in kind to take a 43-40 advantage into the break off a triple from Jr. Clay.
Tech's hot play to end the first half continued into the second, as the Golden Eagles opened their largest lead of the contest, an 11-point edge, with 16:24 to go. The offense sputtered a bit down the stretch, allowing the Gamecocks to get back in the contest and take a four-point lead with under two minutes to play.
With the ball in Jacksonville State's hands and the clock beginning to wind down, freshman Dane Quest stepped up for the second straight game, taking a crucial charge to give Tech the ball with 49 seconds left. A Hunter Vick layup with 22 seconds on the clock pulled the Golden Eagles within two. Desperate for a stop, the Golden Eagles went to a press that resulted in a Gamecock travel and subsequent turnover.
Rookie Keishawn Davidson took the ball on the final possession for the purple and gold, eventually drove it into the lane and kicked it out to Crosland. The senior dribbled towards the top of the 3-point line, passing the ball to Hunter Vick, who drove it around down the right side. With two Gamecocks collapsing on him, the sophomore kicked it back out to a wide-open Crosland on the wing of the arc.
The crowd favorite, who transferred to Tech from Chattanooga State as a sophomore walk-on, earned a scholarship later that season and was named a team captain heading into the 2019-20 campaign, calmly buried the shot, his career-high seventh triple of the contest. It provided him a career-high 21 points on the night, earning him Special Olympics Player of the Game honors.
Overall, Tech's 3-point shooting, defensive work and ball movement lifted the team to its first victory over the Gamecocks since 2017. The Golden Eagles connected on a season-high 15 of its 32 tries from beyond the arc, racked up a season-high 13 steals and dished out 20 assists.
Joining Crosland in double figures off the bench, Vick chipped in 15 points a team-high five rebounds while hitting 3-of-7 from deep and 6-of-10 overall. Clay scored 13 points, distributed seven helpers and tallied three steals. Davidson played a game-high 35 minutes, producing 12 points, eight dimes and a season-high five steals.
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