By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech men's basketball will get an earlier start to its rematch with Morehead State on Thursday, with the team's road tilt against the Eagles moved up to a 1:00 p.m. CT start due to impending, inclement, winter weather expected in Morehead, Ky. later in the evening.
The men's squad will square off with Morehead as part of doubleheader action with the Golden Eagle women's team, whose game was moved to an 11:00 a.m. CT start on Thursday. This marks the second of three straight weeks the Tech men will play the same opponent in back-to-back games due to COVID-19 rescheduling.
The purple and gold took on league-leading Murray State last Monday and Thursday and will do the same against Eastern Illinois next Monday and Thursday.
Fans can follow the action on ESPN+ or on 106.1 The Eagle with Roger Ealey providing radio coverage of the contest.
Tennessee Tech (5-16, 2-6) at Morehead State (17-6, 9-1)
Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022
1:00 p.m. CT
Johnson Arena – Morehead, Ky.
Thursday marks the 157th meeting all-time between Tech and Morehead State, with the Eagles owning a 90-67 lead in the series.
In Morehead, the Eagles hold a 50-16 advantage, winning seven straight against the Golden Eagles in Johnson Arena.
The series represents the second-longest in program history and one of six with 100 or more contests between the two teams. Tech's rivalry with Murray State ranks as the only series with more games played (188).
Morehead State has won eight of the past 10 tilts between the two programs, but the Golden Eagles have forced a season-series split in three of the past five seasons.
In last season's first tilt, Morehead State claimed victory in its home gym, edging the purple and gold, 57-54.
Jr. Clay led the Golden Eagles in the contest, dropping 20 points on 7-for-14 shooting off the bench. He added four rebounds and three steals. Keishawn Davidson tallied 10 points with three steals and two blocks.
In Morehead's 74-55 win in Cookeville last season, Johni Broome led the Eagle effort with 22 points and 13 boards while Skyelar Potter chipped in 15 points.
Clay once again paced Tech, posting 17 points with three steals. Shandon Goldman represented the only other Golden Eagle in double figures, posting 11 points with eight boards.
On Monday, Morehead took a 70-56 win after ending the first half on a 24-2 run and holding Tech to 33.8 percent shooting.
Davidson (pictured below) led Tech with 11 points while Clay and Daniel Ramsey each tallied nine. Amadou Sylla hauled in eight rebounds in just over 14 minutes of action, including seven on the offensive glass alone.
The Golden Eagles have struggled with offensive consistency of late, scoring less then 60 points in three of the past four contests. In its three wins over Division I foes this season, Tech has averaged 86.0 points per game.
Mamoudou Diarra (15), Diante Wood (14), Jr. Clay (13), Daniel Ramsey (10), and Kenny White Jr. (10) each compiled double figures in the team's five-point loss to Murray State, just the second time this season Tech turned in five players with 10+ points in a game and first against a Division I foe.
Kenny White Jr. went off for 23 points in Tech's win over SIUE, 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 game.
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