By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech men's basketball team will square off with Southeast Missouri for the first time season, hosting the Redhawks in a 7:30 p.m. CT tilt Thursday evening as part of an Ohio Valley Conference doubleheader with the Golden Eagle women's squad.
This year's first meeting, originally scheduled for January 13 in Cape Girardeau, Mo., was postponed due to COVID-19 protocols within the SEMO program. With Tech already signed up for four make-up games from other COVID protocols, the tilt has yet to be rescheduled.
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 radio coverage of the contest.
Tennessee Tech (7-19, 4-9) vs. Southeast Missouri (11-15, 6-7)
Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022
7:30 p.m. CT
Eblen Center – Cookeville, Tenn.
Thursday marks the 56th meeting all-time between Tech and Southeast Missouri, with the Golden Eagles owning a 36-19 lead in the series.
In Cookeville, the purple and gold holds a decisive, 23-5 advantage over the Redhawks, including wins in four of the past five match-ups in the Eblen Center.
The two teams split last year's match-ups, with the home team claiming victory in each contest.
In the most recent affair, in Cape Girardeau on Feb. 4, 2021, SEMO overcame a 13-point Tech lead at halftime, edging the Golden Eagles 68-64 while hitting 6-of-6 free throws in closing seconds to ice the game.
SEMO's Manny Patterson led all scorers with 22 points and hauled in a team-high six boards.
In the first meeting between the two teams last year, in the Eblen Center on Dec. 30, 2020, Tech took the victory, 72-63.
The purple and gold were led by Clay, who hit 11-of-14 attempts from the free-throw line on his way to a game-high 22 points. Amadou Sylla chipped in 13 points and seven rebounds.
Eric Reed Jr. led the Redhawks with 14 points while Chris Harris added 11 points. DQ Nicholas dished out eight assists while Nana Akenten grabbed nine rebounds.
Tech before last year's loss on the road, the Golden Eagles had claimed three straight wins in the series.
Tech's comeback bid at SIUE came up just short Saturday, as Shandon Goldman's buzzer-beating try from distance just caught the front of the rim and bounced off the backboard.
John Pettway turned in his top performance as a Golden Eagle, posting season-highs of 18 points and 10 rebounds for his first double-double in the purple and gold.
The Golden Eagles dropped 84 points in their win over Eastern Illinois in Cookeville, marking the first time the team scored 80+ in back-to-back games since defeating Martin Methodist 83-70 and falling to Wright State in overtime, 85-80, back on Nov. 9 and Nov. 12, respectively.
The purple and gold dished out 21 assists in the home win over Eastern Illinois, moving to 5-2 this season when doling out 20+ helpers.
Tech's home loss to Belmont marked the sixth 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.
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 Jan. 13, 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.
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).
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