By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech men's basketball team finally returns home to the comfort of the Hooper Eblen Center, hosting SIUE in a 6:00 p.m. CT tilt on Thursday for its first action in Cookeville since Dec. 16 against Montreat College.
The game will follow the Golden Eagle women's contest against the Cougars, set for a 4:00 p.m. tip, which will appear on ESPNU.
Fans can follow the action on ESPN+ with Dylan Vazzano and Frank Harrell on the call, or on 106.1 The Eagle with Roger Ealey providing the coverage.
Tennessee Tech (4-12, 1-2) vs. SIUE (7-9, 1-2)
Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022
6:00 p.m. CT
Eblen Center – Cookeville, Tenn.
Thursday marks the 17th meeting all-time between Tech and SIUE, with the Golden Eagles owning an 11-5 lead in the series.
In Cookeville, Tech holds a 5-1 advantage, with the Cougars capturing their first-ever victory in the Eblen Center last season.
SIUE took its first win in Cookeville by a final score of 81-63 on Feb. 11, 2021, shooting lights-out to the tune of 58.5 percent from the field, 60 percent from distance, and 77.8 percent from the charity stripe.
Tech was held to just 43.5 percent from the floor, 25 percent from beyond the arc, and 57.1 percent from the free-throw line.
Jr. Clay paced the purple and gold with 19 points on 9-for-19 shooting, the only Golden Eagle to reach double figures. Keishawn Davidson produced six rebounds and eight assists while chipping in five points.
Four Cougars turned in double-digit scoring performances, including returners Courtney Carter (18 pts, five ast) and Shamar Wright (15 pts).
The Golden Eagles have won six of the past eight match-ups with the Cougars, with SIUE's victories coming last season and back on Feb. 28, 2019 in Edwardsville, a 76-68 decision.
Despite the infancy of the all-time series – the first contest between the two programs didn't come until Dec. 1, 2010 – Tech and SIUE have met twice in the OVC Tournament. The Golden Eagles took the W in both contests, including 74-67 in 2014 and 60-51 in 2018, Tech's last trip to the league's postseason event.
When Tech squares off with SIUE Thursday, it will mark 35 days between home games for the purple and gold, with the last coming against Montreat College on Dec. 16, 2021. The gap ranks in the top-10 in the country this season.
With a 76-70 victory at UT Martin Saturday, Tech picked up its first road win since a 62-60 decision over Southeast Missouri on Feb. 20, 2020 and the first of this season.
In Tech's loss at Belmont, forward Daniel Ramsey produced a career-high 18 points on 9-for-15 shooting in just 21 minutes of action. He added three rebounds to the mix as well.
When the Golden Eagles suited up against Belmont Thursday evening, it had 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 marked 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 represented 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.
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 16 players (13 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 Georgia features a pair. Arkansas, California, and Kentucky each claim one Tech player.
Three international players round out the roster, including one Golden Eagle from Canada and two more from Mali.
Tech has two graduate students, three juniors, six sophomores, and five freshmen.
Nine 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