By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech men's basketball team is set to host Montreat College in its final home game of the 2021 calendar year, squaring off with the Cavaliers Thursday in a 3:00 p.m. CT matinee.
Coverage will be provided on ESPN+ with Dylan Vazzano and Frank Harrell on the call, as well as radio on 106.1 The Eagle with Roger Ealey.
Tennessee Tech (2-8) vs. Montreat College (7-4)
Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021
3:00 p.m. CT
Eblen Center – Cookeville, Tenn.
Thursday marks the second meeting all-time between Tech and Montreat, with the Golden Eagles owning a 1-0 lead in the series.
In Cookeville, the Golden Eagles own a 1-0 advantage. In the most recent match-up in the Eblen Center, Tech defeated the Cavaliers in dominant fashion, 87-54, on Dec. 19, 1998.
In the victory, five Golden Eagles scored in double figures, led by Corey Hemphill with 15 points. Wesley Whitehorn (pictured below) chipped in 14 with eight rebounds.
Josh Heard delivered 13 points with three steals while DeAntoine Beasley produced 11 points, seven boards, and three assists. Martin Fears contributed 10 points while Joey Westmoreland corralled a team-high nine rebounds.
Tech shot just 37.7 percent from the floor and 25.0 percent from 3-point range in the game, but was spectacular from the free-throw line. The purple and gold converted 28-of-33 tries from the charity stripe for an 84.8 percent clip.
The Golden Eagle defense forced a whopping 24 turnovers by the Cavaliers, racking up 10 steals.
Montreat's Jesse Gardner led all scorers in the contest, hitting four triples on his way to 19 points, the team's only double-digit producer.
Tech is 35-1 all-time against the current membership of the Appalachian Athletic Conference. The purple and gold has won 35 straight, with the lone loss a 28-25 defeat at the hands of Milligan College back during the 1924-25 campaign.
The Golden Eagles fell to Troy in the two programs' first-ever meeting on Saturday, 75-72. It marked the first time since 2019-20 that Tech lost three straight games by eight or less points. The game featured a whopping 21 lead changes and 11 ties.
At Western Carolina, Tech fell to the Catamounts in overtime for the second straight season, 74-69. It marked the fifth consecutive loss in overtime for the Golden Eagles, with the team's last triumph in extra time coming in a 78-69 win against SIUE back on Jan. 10, 2019.
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