By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech men's basketball team will make its way east for a Wednesday night tilt with Western Carolina, a rematch from last season's overtime thriller in Cullowhee, N.C.
Tip is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. CT in a game the Golden Eagles will look to avenge last year's loss to the Catamounts on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer in overtime. Coverage will be provided on ESPN+, as well as radio on 106.1 The Eagle with Dylan Vazzano on the call.
Tennessee Tech (2-6) at Western Carolina (5-4)
Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021
6:00 p.m. CT
Ramsey Center – Cullowhee, N.C.
Wednesday marks the 10th meeting all-time between Tech and Western Carolina, with the Golden Eagles owning a 5-4 lead in the series.
In Cullowhee, the Catamounts own a 2-1 advantage. In the most recent match-up in the Ramsey Center, Western Carolina edged Tech in an overtime affair, 76-75, on Dec. 6, 2020.
Guards Jr. Clay (below) and Keishawn Davidson put up great performances in the contest, looking to lead Tech to its first victory of the 2020-21 season. Clay dropped a team-high 20 points on 8-for-16 shooting with four assists and four steals. Davidson added 18 points on 6-for-11 efficiency.
With six seconds left to play in overtime, the Catamounts fouled Davidson with the score tied at 73-73. The Tech guard converted both tries from the charity stripe providing the Golden Eagles with a 75-73 advantage.
WCU senior Mason Faulkner played hero for the home team, hitting a step-back, buzzer-beater from beyond the arc to give the Catamounts the 76-75 win.
Both overtime contests have occurred in Cullowhee, with Tech's lone win on the road coming in a 96-90 decision on Dec. 16, 1974 in an extra period.
After losing the first-ever tilt in 1942-43, Tech won five-straight against the Catamounts, with the most recent win a 107-87 victory in Cookeville back on Dec. 22, 1990.
The Golden Eagles own a 100-76 all-time record against the current membership of the Southern Conference. That includes records of 42-21 against Chattanooga and 37-36 versus ETS. Tech also owns eight wins over Samford, five over Mercer and WCU, and two over The Citadel.
The Golden Eagles dropped a defensive battle in their most recent outing, a 59-51 loss at Evansville that saw neither side shoot better than 43 percent. Tech was held to just 37.0 percent from the floor in the contest while the two sides combined for 26 turnovers.
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 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