By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech men's basketball team returns to Cookeville and the comfort of the Hooper Eblen Center Tuesday evening, hosting in-state rival Chattanooga in a 6:00 p.m. CT tilt.
The contest represents a rematch between the two programs, which met back on Nov. 16 in Chattanooga, a 69-62 win by the Mocs. Coverage will be provided on ESPN+ as well as via radio on 106.1 The Eagle.
Tennessee Tech (2-4) vs. Chattanooga (5-1)
Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021
6:00 p.m. CT
Eblen Center – Cookeville, Tenn.
Tuesday marks the 63rd meeting all-time between Tech and Chattanooga, with the Golden Eagles owning a 42-20 lead in the series.
In Cookeville, the Golden Eagles own a commanding, 28-6 advantage. The Mocs claimed the most recent tilt in the Eblen Center between the two programs, a 62-54 decision last season on Nov. 30, 2020.
Tech has won three of the previous four meetings in Cookeville, with all four match-ups decided by less than 10 points.
Both teams have earned five wins in the past 10 contests, with Chattanooga owning wins in the past three meetings.
Tech owns the longest winning streak in the series, claiming 10-straight victories on two occasions, from 1948-49 to 12/6/61 and again from 12/3/63 to 2/23/70.
One Moc win in between the two streaks kept it from becoming a whopping 21 straight.
In last year's tilt, a Mocs 62-54 win, sophomore Keishawn Davidson led the purple and gold with a 12-point, 10-rebound double-double with six assists.
Malachi Smith paced the Mocs with 15 points, 14 rebounds, and five steals for his own double-double while David Jean-Baptiste produced 12 points and four steals.
Chattanooga claimed victory in this season's match-up at McKenzie Arena, a 69-62 win.
Jr. Clay (below) led the Golden Eagles with 15 points in his hometown, adding four assists to the mix.
Davidson added 14 points, seven rebounds, and four dimes while Amadou Sylla was a perfect 5-for-5 from the field for 10 points.
Malachi Smith once again was the leader for the Mocs, scoring a game-high 18 points with six assists and eight rebounds. David Jean-Baptiste scored 12 while KC Hankton added 13 with five boards. Darius Banks also posted 10 points with six dimes.
At No. 15 Tennessee, Tech took a 35-34 lead into the locker room thanks to a 3-pointer from Jr. Clay with less than two seconds to go. It marked the Cookeville crew's first halftime advantage over its in-state rival since taking a 32-26 lead into the break in a 61-58 loss on Dec. 19, 2014.
The lead also represented the Golden Eagles' first over a Power 5 team at halftime since leading Ole Miss 32-31 in an 80-63 loss on Dec. 29, 2019.
It was the first lead for Tech over a nationally-ranked opponent since taking a 34-30 advantage at the break against No. 14 Murray State in a 69-64 home loss to the Racers back on Feb. 25, 2012.
It was also the first halftime lead for the purple and gold against a nationally-ranked foe on the road since hitting the locker room ahead of No. 25 Iowa State 49-35 in an 89-74 loss on Dec. 5, 2000.
The Golden Eagles were special on defense against Lipscomb (Nov. 23, 2021) 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 Thomas Corhern