By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech men's basketball team will put a wrap on the 2021-22 regular season Saturday evening, playing host to in-state and Ohio Valley Conference rival UT Martin in a 7:30 p.m. CT showdown in the Hooper Eblen Center.
The game marks Senior Night for the Tech squad, with Jr. Clay, Shandon Goldman, John Pettway, Amadou Sylla, and manager Trey Treadway all being honored prior to the contest and following the women's tilt, which begins at 5:30 p.m.
Fans can follow the action on ESPN+, with Dylan Vazzano and Frank Harrell on the call, or on 106.1 The Eagle with Buddy Pearson providing radio coverage of the contest. Local fans can also view the contest on television, with WCTE producing the contest with Sam Brooks, Marc Burnett, and Adam West.
Tennessee Tech (9-20, 6-10) vs. UT Martin (8-21, 4-13)
Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022
7:30 p.m. CT
Eblen Center – Cookeville, Tenn.
Saturday marks the 56th meeting all-time between Tech and UT Martin, with the Golden Eagles owning a 39-16 lead in the series.
In Cookeville, the Golden Eagles hold a 22-6 advantage. The purple and gold have won each of the past two meetings in the Eblen Center.
Both teams have won three of the past six games, with the Skyhawks claiming all three at home. UT Martin's last win in Cookeville came back on Feb. 1, 2017, a 75-46 victory in the Hoop.
In last season's only tilt between the two in-state rivals, UT Martin came away with a close, two-point win in a low-scoring affair in the Elam Center.
Austin Harvell enjoyed a breakout contest as a rookie, hitting 4-of-7 tries from downtown on his way to a career-high 14 points. He also corralled a team-high eight rebounds and blocked a pair of shots.
UT Martin, which represents the only team in the nation to not return a single minute played from last season, saw former Skyhawk Jaron Williams lead the way with 20 points. Ajani Kennedy snagged a game-high 10 boards.
In this year's first meeting in Martin, Tech rallied from a 12-point, first-half deficit to down the Skyhawks, 76-70. Kenny White Jr. led the effort with 13 points and four steals.
Amadou Sylla earned his first double-double of the year with 11 points, 12 rebounds, and three blocks.
With a 73-69 win at Austin Peay on Saturday, Tech clinched its first OVC Tournament berth since the 2017-18 season. That season was also the last time the Golden Eagles won four-of-five contests.
Tech outlasted Southeast Missouri in a barn-burner last Thursday, pulling off the 98-94 win in the Hoop. The team's 98 points marked the most against a Division I opponent since dropping 104 in a victory in the Pit at New Mexico on Nov. 21, 2017.
Six Golden Eagles scored in double figures in the win, a first since Nov. 16, 2017 against Boyce College.
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 24 assists in the home win over SEMO, moving to 6-2 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 of 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