By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech men's basketball team hits the road for a trip to Knoxville and match-up with in-state foe and No. 15 nationally-ranked Tennessee Friday afternoon.
Tip is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. CT in the Golden Eagles' final road contest in the month of November. Coverage will be provided on SEC Network+ and ESPN+, as well as via radio on 106.1 The Eagle with Roger Ealey on the call.
Tennessee Tech (2-3) at #15 Tennessee (3-1)
Friday, Nov. 26, 2021
2:00 p.m. CT
Thompson-Boling Arena – Knoxville, Tenn.
Friday marks the 27th meeting all-time between Tech and Tennessee, with the Vols owning a 25-1 lead in the series.
In Knoxville, the Vols hold a 24-1 advantage, including wins in each of the last nine match-ups in Thompson-Boling Arena.
Tech's last and only victory in Knoxville, a 73-62 decision, came back on Dec. 4, 1996. Curtis Wiggins led the Golden Eagle effort, accounting for a game-high 22 points. Chris Turner (15) and Lorenzo Coleman (13) joined him in double figures.
The largest crowd in Eblen Center history took place in a contest against Tennessee, as over 10,000 fans packed the Hoop in the first round of the NIT back in 1985. The Vols edged the Golden Eagles, 65-62, in the only game contested between the two programs in Cookeville.
The in-state rivalry dates back to 1939, when the Vols defeated Tech, 37-23, in Knoxville. The series took more than a 35-year hiatus with no meetings between a 1949 tilt and the 1985 NIT contest.
This match-up will represent the fourth time Tech has taken on a nationally-ranked Tennessee squad. The Vols squared off with the Golden Eagles ranked No. 21 in a Dec. 28, 2006 tilt, earning a 101-77 victory.
In the two team's Dec. 29, 2018 tilt, Tennessee entered as the No. 3 team in the nation and produced an appropriate result, defeating Tech 96-53.
A freshman at the time, Jr. Clay led the way for the Golden Eagles with team-highs of 16 points, five assists, and three steals while playing 32 minutes.
Tech is 10-70 all-time against the current membership of the Southeastern Conference.
The Golden Eagles have played against 12 of the 14 SEC programs. Tech has never faced LSU or Texas A&M.
On the road, the purple and gold holds a 4-61 mark against the current teams part of the SEC.
Tech's most success against an SEC program has come against in-state foe Vanderbilt. The Golden Eagles are 6-13 all-time against the Commodores, but haven't played the Nashvillians since 2008.
The Golden Eagles were special on defense against Lipscomb, forcing 22 turnovers to help win the contest 88-77 despite the Bisons shooting 64.4 percent from the field.
Tech made just 10 turnovers in the game, including eight in the first half and the other two on the first two possessions of the second half. The purple and gold went the remaining 19 minutes without a turnover.
After starting the contest 0-for-6 from deep, (making the team 0 for its last 27 overall from downtown), Tech finished the Lipscomb win 10-for-15 from 3-point range.
The two guards were the first Tech pair to combine for at least 19 assists since Maurice Houston (15) and Rob West (7) teamed up for 22 in a 97-79 win over Morehead State on Jan. 11, 1993.
They are just the fourth duo in program history to post 19 assists in a single game, joining Houston and West in 1993, Van Usher (14) and Bobby McWilliams (6) in 1990, and Van Usher (17) and Mitch Cupples (2) in 1990).
They also represent the only duo in the nation to combine for at least 19 assists in one game this season.
In the team's loss against UNC Asheville, the Golden Eagles finished 0-for-21 from 3-point range, the first time Tech completed a contest without a make from beyond the arc since Feb. 10, 2011.
Tech was predicted to finish 8th overall in the 2021-22 OVC race in voting by the league's head coaches and SIDs.
Serving as team captains for the Golden Eagles in 2021-22 are Jr. Clay, Keishawn Davidson, Shandon Goldman, John Pettway, and Diante Wood. It marks the third-straight year serving as captains for both Clay and Davidson.
In the 2021-22 campaign, Tech will square off with eight of the 11 other Division I state institutions, including contests against Austin Peay, Belmont, Chattanooga, Lipscomb, Memphis, Tennessee State, Tennessee, and UT Martin.
So far, the Golden Eagles are 1-2 in those contests, with an 88-77 victory over Lipscomb and losses at #12 Memphis and at Chattanooga.
With an 83-70 win over Martin Methodist on November 9, 2019, 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.
TOP IN THEIR STATES
Four of Tech's players for the 2021-22 season boast a particularly impressive feat as part of their respective resumes, all finishing as finalists for the Mr. Basketball Award for their state during their high school careers.
Junior guard Jr. Clay was a two-time finalist at the TSSAA Division II Class AA level while at The McCallie School in Chattanooga, earning the honor in 2017 and again in 2018.
Sophomore guard CJ Gettelfinger was one of three finalists at the TSSAA Division II Class A level in 2018 while competing for Grace Christian Academy in Knoxville.
Freshman forward Kenny White Jr. was named a finalist for Kentucky's Mr. Basketball Award in 2020 while starring for Madisonville-North Hopkins High School in Madisonville, Ky.
Transfer guard Diante Wood was named the runner-up for Alabama's Mr. Basketball Award in 2018, prepping as a four-start recruit at Sacred Heart Catholic High School in Anniston, Ala.
Head coach John Pelphrey, a University of Kentucky Hall of Famer, was a Mr. Basketball Award winner during his high school days, claiming the honor for Paintsville High School in 1987.
The 2021-22 Tech roster features 17 players (14 scholarship student-athletes) representing six states and three countries.
Five Golden Eagle players hail from the state Tennessee, while Alabama boasts three Tech players, and California and Georgia each feature a pair. Arkansas and Kentucky are represented by one Tech player each.
Three international players round out the roster, including one Golden Eagle from Canada and two more from Mali.
Tech has two graduate students, four juniors, six sophomores, and five freshmen.
Ten Golden Eagles stand 6-foot-6 or taller while the other seven measure in at 6-foot-5 or shorter.
Seven members are new to the Tech squad for 2021-22, including five Division I transfers. Joining the Tech forces from other Division I institutions, are Diante Wood (Jacksonville/Alabama), Daniel Ramsey (Xavier), Mamoudou Diarra (Cincinnati), Caleb Christopher (Arizona State), and John Pettway (South Alabama).
Photo by Jim Dillon