By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech men's basketball team will wrap up its 2021-22 non-conference slate Tuesday evening, returning to the state of Ohio for a match-up with Cincinnati at 6:00 p.m. CT at Fifth Third Arena.
Coverage will be provided on ESPN+, as well as radio on 106.1 The Eagle with Dylan Vazzano on the call. The Golden Eagles will officially open Ohio Valley Conference play Thursday, Dec. 30 at Tennessee State in a 7:30 p.m. tilt in Nashville.
Tennessee Tech (3-9) at Cincinnati (9-3)
Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021
6:00 p.m. CT
Fifth Third Arena – Cincinnati, Ohio
Tuesday marks the third meeting all-time between Tech and Cincinnati, with the Bearcats owning a 2-0 lead in the series.
In Cincinnati, the Bearcats own a 1-0 advantage, defeating the Golden Eagles in the lone match-up in Ohio. Cincinnati edged the Golden Eagles, 54-48, back on Nov. 23, 2002.
In the loss, Cameron Crisp paced the Golden Eagles with 16 points and seven rebounds, hitting 3-of-6 tries from deep. Greg Morgan added 13 points while Damien Kinloch also posted seven boards.
Cincinnati's Leonard Stokes led all scorers with 21 points and five assists while Taron Barker chipped in 12 points.
The two teams also met on Dec. 17, 2005 at the Las Vegas Classic in Las Vegas. The Bearcats cruised to a 105-62 victory in the match-up.
Anthony Fisher led Tech with 16 points while Justin Taylor contributed 10 points. Milone Clark posted nine points with a team-high seven rebounds.
Five Bearcats finished in double figures, led by James White and Eric Hicks with 19 each. Jihad Muhammad scored 18 while Devan Downey added 16 and Cedric McGowan produced 12.
Tech is 27-41 all-time against the current membership of the American Athletic Conference. Tech has faced eight of the 11 teams in the AAC, with just SMU, Tulsa, and Wichita State left to play.
The Golden Eagles are 24-29 against Memphis in the most common series. Tech owns a 2-1 mark against UCF and a 1-1 mark versus East Carolina.
Tech forward Mamoudou Diarra joined the Golden Eagles after four seasons at Cincinnati. He played in 70 games for the Bearcats.
In Tech's huge, 117-60 victory over Montreat Thursday the Golden Eagles tied a 21-year-old program record, dishing out an eye-popping 36 assists. The purple and gold's previous contest with 36 helpers came against Toccoa Falls on Jan. 11, 2000.
The team's 117 points and 62 second-half points were the most by a Tech squad since defeating Warren Wilson College 118-60 back on Dec. 6, 2018.
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.
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