March 2, 2012

Golden Eagle squads get semifinal rematches as men face No. 9 Murray State, women take on Eastern Ill.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Tech will face Murray State in the Ohio Valley Conference semifinals for the second consecutive year Friday night at 6 p.m. at Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn.

The Golden Eagles played their way into the semis with a 77-73 quarterfinal victory over Southeast Missouri State on Thursday evening.

Friday’s contest will be televised live on ESPNU.

The setup heading into Friday’s game is strangely similar to a season ago. Tech comes in as a four-seed just as they did in 2011, facing top-seeded Murray State. The Golden Eagles can only hope the result is also similar. Tech upended the regular-season champion Racers, 64-59, in last year’s semifinals.

The Golden Eagles have faced Murray State twice this season, falling in close contests both times. The Racers weathered a furious Tech rally to take an 82-74 victory on Jan. 14 in front of a sellout crowd in Murray.

MSU again pulled out a close contest against the Golden Eagles, going 8-for-10 at the free-throw line down the stretch to claim a 69-64 victory in front of 9,021 fans at Eblen Center on Feb. 25.

At 19-12, Tech can stake claim to its second-consecutive 20-win season with a victory on Friday, as well as qualify for a second-straight OVC championship game berth.

The Racers, ranked No. 9 in the nation in the Coaches Poll and No. 12 by the Associated Press, are 28-1 coming into the contest. Murray State has won five straight games since falling to Tennessee State on Feb. 9.

MSU is paced by Isaiah Canaan, the OVC Player of the Year and the league’s second-leading scorer who averages 19.4 points per contest. Donte Poole contributes 13.9 points per game while Ivan Aska adds 11.3. Aska is the Racers’ leading rebounder, grabbing 5.8 boards per game.

Tech players lead the OVC in points (Kevin Murphy, 20.7) rebounds (Jud Dillard, 8.7), assists (Zac Swansey, 6.1) and steals (Swansey, 2.2).

The Golden Eagles continue to boast the No. 3 scoring duo in NCAA Division I in Murphy and Dillard, who combine to pour in 38.7 points per game. Dillard averages 18.0 points per contest and is fourth among OVC scorers.

Murphy has led Tech in games against Murray State this season, averaging 22.5 points per contest. Three other Golden Eagles are averaging in double-figures against the Racers – Dillard (15.5), Bailey (11.5) and Swansey (10.5).

Murphy is just 19 points away from scoring his 2,000th career point at Tech. If he does so, he will join Earl Wise (2,196) as one of just two Golden Eagles to reach the milestone.

The Golden Eagles are 2-9 all-time against Murray State in the tournament. Overall, the Racers hold a 123-47 edge in the series, which dates back to the 1929-30 season.

Tickets for Friday’s game are on sale through the Tennessee Tech ticket office. The only way to receive seating in the Tech section is to purchase your tickets through the Eblen Center box office at (931) 372-3940. General admission tickets are also on sale at Municipal Auditorium.

In addition to national television coverage on ESPNU, the game will be broadcast over the Golden Eagle Sports Network, available in the Cookeville area on WHUB, AM 1400. A live stream of the game will be available on ESPN3.com.

Women take on Eastern Illinois at 2 p.m.

After its 81-65 win over Eastern Kentucky Colonels in the second round of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament, the Tennessee Tech women’s basketball team will square off with the No. 2 seed Eastern Illinois Panthers.

The opening tip is set for 2 p.m.

This will be the 36th meeting between the Golden Eagles and Panthers, with TTU leading the season series at 22-13. In their only meeting this season, the Panthers managed to hang on to a 51-50 victory.

In their earlier encounter this season Jala Harris tallied a team-high 16 points, while T’Keyah Williams posted seven points and five rebounds.

The Panthers were led by Ta’Kenya Nixon who posted 15 points and eight rebounds, while Sydney Mitchell added eight points and 10 rebounds.

This will also be sixth all-time meeting between TTU and EIU in the OVC Tournament with the Golden Eagles boasting a 3-2 record. In their last meeting in the OVC Tournament, the Panthers took the 71-65 decision in 2009.

TTU (16-15) was led by Harris in its win over Eastern Kentucky as she poured in a game-high 19 points. Tacarra Hayes added 14 points and now sits in ninth place on the all-time scores list at Tech with 1,719.

Boasting a 13-3 OVC record, EIU earned the No. 2 seed in the OVC Tournament and a pair of byes in the first two rounds. Nixon has led the Panther offense this season averaging 15.8 points and 4.5 assists per game, while Mariah King has averaged 12.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per game.