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Golden Eagles kick off Coke Zero Sugar Classic with Tuesday night contest at Chattanooga

Golden Eagles kick off Coke Zero Sugar Classic with Tuesday night contest at Chattanooga

By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech men's basketball team continues a stretch of three games in five days Tuesday evening, hitting the road for an in-state battle with Chattanooga as part of the Coke Zero Sugar Classic.

The purple and gold will square off with the Mocs in a 6:00 p.m. CT affair in McKenzie Arena, with the contest set to be streamed live on ESPN+ and broadcast on 106.1 The Eagle by longtime 'Voice of the Golden Eagles' Roger Ealey. Tech will follow it up with a neutral site battle against UNC Asheville on Thursday, with the 5:00 p.m. bout also set to take place in McKenzie Arena.

The Mocs were picked as the preseason favorite to win the Southern Conference after turning in an 18-8 campaign a season ago, including a 62-54 win over the Golden Eagles in Cookeville. Chattanooga opened the season with a solid, 75-64 win at Loyola Marymount on Nov. 9. UTC then cruised to a 75-45 decision over UNC Asheville on Sunday.

With the win, the Mocs extended their school-record non-conference win streak to 14 games, dating back to an 84-80 overtime victory over Troy on Dec. 15, 2019. Chattanooga also owns a 14-game home non-conference win streak.

The Golden Eagles enter the contest fresh off their first win of the 2021-22 campaign, a 109-68 blowout victory over Oakwood University Sunday afternoon. It marked the first time since 2018-19 Tech eclipsed the century mark and the first time in the John Pelphrey era.

The offense hummed behind star guards Jr. Clay and Keishawn Davidson, with the two leading the charge on a night that saw numerous career-high efforts among the squad. The 6-foot Clay posted his third career double-double with 11 points, 10 assists, and zero turnovers, as well as his first career dunk.

Davidson exploded for a career-high 28 points with new personal-best marks of 10 made field goals and six makes from 3-point range on seven tries. Cincinnati transfer Mamoudou Diarra, the team's leading scorer at Memphis, also enjoyed a breakout performance. The junior delivered a career-best 19 points on 8-for-14 shooting with a 3-for-6 clip from beyond the arc. He also tied his career-high showing of nine rebounds, with seven coming on the offensive glass.

Fellow transfer (from Xavier) Daniel Ramsey also turned in a career-high day in scoring, sinking 7-of-8 attempts from the floor on his way to 14 points in just over 12 minutes of work. Yet another Division I transfer, Caleb Christopher of Arizona State, scored a career-best seven points in just four minutes.

Cookeville native, walk-on, and former manager Bailey Gilliam made his collegiate debut late in the ball game, scoring his first career points with a fast-break layup. Big man Amadou Sylla tied his career-best mark of three rejections while leading the Tech block party. Shandon Goldman, Marcus Hopkins, and Diarra each tallied a pair of blocks as well. Hopkins set a new career standard with seven rebounds to add to the record-breaking evening.

Season tickets for Tennessee Tech basketball are on sale now. Call (931) 372-3940, visit the Hooper Eblen Center ticket office, or log on to TTUSports.com to order yours today.

Photo by Jim Dillon

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