By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. - The Tennessee Tech men's basketball team will finally play its first Ohio Valley Conference contest of the 2021-22 campaign, agreeing to play at Belmont Thursday evening at 7:00 p.m. CT after the Bruins saw their originally scheduled contest with Austin Peay postponed due to COVID-19 protocols. It will mark the first game in 23 days for the purple and gold, having last competed at Cincinnati on Dec. 21, 2021.
Fans can watch the game on ESPN+.
Thursday evening's tilt will take place of the originally scheduled game between the Golden Eagles and Bruins at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 22. That date will now feature a solo contest between the Tennessee Tech women and Belmont women.
The Tech men will stay on the road Saturday, Jan. 15 with a contest at UT Martin at 3:30 p.m. CT.
The Golden Eagle women's basketball team will still compete against the Redhawks on Thursday with the original 5:00 p.m. tip still on as scheduled.
Further updates to all Golden Eagle Athletics schedules can be found on TTUsports.com and Tech Athletics social media accounts.
Tennessee Tech (3-10, 0-0) at Belmont (12-3, 2-0)
Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022
7:00 p.m. CT
Curb Event Center – Nashville, Tenn.
Webcast: ESPN+ (Steve Layman, Greg Sage & Emily Proud)
Thursday marks the 30th meeting all-time between Tech and Belmont, with the Bruins owning a 15-14 lead in the series.
In Nashville, Belmont holds a 9-2 advantage, including claiming wins in each of the past nine meetings in the Curb Event Center. Tech has never won in the CEC, with the team's last victory over the Bruins in Nashville coming back on Dec. 9, 1964 in a 67-59 decision.
Tech won the first 11 match-ups with the Bruins in the all-time series, which began during the 1956-57 campaign.
The Bruins have won eight consecutive games in the series, including both match-ups last season.
In the first meeting last season in Cookeville, back on Jan. 14, 2021, the Bruins took an 88-67 victory, with Ben Sheppard leading the way with 15 points. Grayson Murphy added 14 points, five assists, and seven steals while Luke Smith chipped in 14 points.
Shandon Goldman paced the purple and gold in the loss, hitting 5-of-6 tries from deep and 7-of-8 from the floor on his way to 19 points.
In the rematch in Nashville, on Feb. 20, 2021, Belmont cruised to a 90-66 win. Nick Muszynski delivered 19 points while Murphy flirted with a triple double with 8 points, 10 rebounds, and eight dimes.
Sheppard posted 11 points and seven boards while JaCobi Wood tallied 15 points.
For Tech, Keishawn Davidson produced 13 points and three assists while former Golden Eagle Damaria Franklin (pictured below) led the team with 18 points and seven rebounds.
When the Golden Eagles suit up against Belmont Thursday evening, it will have been 23 days since Tech's most recent contest, a 76-67 loss at Cincinnati back on Dec. 21, 2021.
The 23-day hiatus from the hardwood marks the longest in-season break since the 2015-16 season, which featured a whopping 26-day stretch between contests. That year, Tech fell to Austin Peay in the first round of the OVC Tournament on Mar. 2, 2015 and later competed in the first-ever and only Vegas 16 Tournament against Old Dominion on Mar. 28, 2016.
It also represents the longest regular-season break for the purple and gold since the 1960-61 campaign. Tech had an incredible 28 days between contests at Morehead State on Dec. 10, 1960 and at Murray State on Jan. 7, 1961.
At Cincinnati, Tech's most recent tilt, former Bearcat Mamoudou Diarra led the Golden Eagles in his return to Fifth Third Arena, posting team-highs of 15 points, four rebounds, three triples, and two blocks. Kenny White Jr. added 10 points and two assists in his first start of the year.
In Tech's huge, 117-60 victory over Montreat, 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.
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 Thomas Corhern