By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech men's basketball team hits the road for the sixth time in the past seven games Monday, heading west for a 7:00 p.m. match-up with longtime, Ohio Valley Conference rival Murray State.
Fans can follow the action on ESPN+ or on 106.1 The Eagle with Dylan Vazzano providing radio coverage of the contest. The contest against the Racers was originally slated for Jan. 1, but was postponed due to COVID-19 protocols within the Tech program. This marks the second of four straight Monday tilts for the purple and gold.
Tennessee Tech (5-12, 2-2) at Murray State (17-2, 7-0)
Monday, Jan. 24, 2022
7:00 p.m. CT
CFSB Center – Murray, Ky.
Monday marks the 187th meeting all-time between Tech and Murray State, with the Racers owning a 135-51 lead in the series.
This match-up marks the longest rivalry for the Golden Eagles both in terms of match-ups and number of years playing a contest. The two sides kicked off the rivalry in 1929-30 and have met at least once in all but three seasons during that stretch.
The Racers hold a 76-9 series advantage over the Golden Eagles when playing in Murray.
Just the fourth meeting in Murray since 2016, the Racers own a 2-1 lead over that span in the CFSB Center.
In last year's regular-season finale, Tech snapped a six-game skid against the Racers, taking the Feb. 27, 2021 match-up in Cookeville by a final score of 71-61.
On his way to his first career OVC Player of the Week nod, Jr. Clay (pictured below) was great in the Tech win, scoring 20 points with six assists on 4-for-8 shooting from distance.
Fellow back-court teammate Keishawn Davidson added 15 points to the mix while former Golden Eagle Damaria Franklin chipped in 12 and seven boards. Shandon Goldman hauled in a team-high nine rebounds while adding eight points.
Tech's defense really stood out, holding Tevin Brown to just five points in the contest and the Racers overall to seven makes from distance.
The Racers claimed victory in the first meeting on Jan. 23, 2021, a 72-63 decision in Murray.
Goldman paced the purple and gold in the loss, scoring 17 points with five boards. Clay flirted with a double-double, posting 15 points and a team-high nine rebounds.
Davidson tallied 12 points with four assists and four rebounds.
The Golden Eagles cruised to a 94-76 win over SIUE on Thursday, recording 27 assists in the contest while hitting 14-of-25 attempts from distance. It marked the fourth time this season the purple and gold dished out 25 or more dimes, all in Tech victories.
Kenny White Jr. went off for 23 points on the night while Jr. Clay chipped in 20 of his own off the bench, as well as five dimes and four steals. It marked the first time this season a pair of Golden Eagles scored 20+ points in the same contest.
When Tech squared off with SIUE Thursday, it marked 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 last 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.
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 Jim Dillon