January 16, 2009

Hottest Tech hoops rivalry adds another chapter against Racers

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- The rivalry between Tennessee Tech and Murray State has become one of the fiercest over the years, for both teams, and Saturday night's game in Eblen Center promises to be another outstanding show.

Tipoff is at 7 p.m., following the women's game.

A year ago, the two teams split their regular season battles, before Murray State claimed a three-point win in the first round of the OVC Tournament to send the Golden Eagles home to pack away their gear.

It was the second time in five years that Tech saw its season ended in the tournament by MSU, and the fourth time in 10 years.

It's easy to see why the Golden Eagles look forward to their contests with MSU, and Saturday night's game is no exception. Both teams are battling through a logjam of teams in the middle of the standings.

After their win Thursday night at Jacksonville State, Murray State is 8-8 overall and 3-3 within the league. The Golden Eagles lost to UT Martin Thursday, and enter the fray with an identical 8-8 overall mark while going 2-4 in league play.

The Racers were the preseason choice to win the 2008-09 OVC regular season championship, receiving 11 of the 20 first-place votes. Danero Thomas was named to the preseason all-OVC squad.

Murray State is led by Thomas, who ranks 17th in the OVC with 11.3 points per game. Isaac Miles is 28th with 10.6 ppg. Ivan Aska is Murray's top rebounder, getting 5.9 per game to rank 13th. Kevin Thomas ranks second in the league in assists with 4.7 per game, while Danero Thomas is sixth in the conference in steals.

Junior Will Barnes leads Tech with 11.5 ppg to rank 14th, while Daniel Northern is 15th with 11.4 ppg. Tech also has Frank Davis (21st with 11.0 ppg) and DJ Lindsay (24th with 10.9 ppg) among the league's top 30 scorers.

A year ago, Tech and MSU split in the regular season, each winning at home. After Tech's win in the regular season finale, Murray State grabbed an OVC Tournament win five nights later in Kentucky.

In the OVC tourney game, No. 7 seed Tech took it down to the wire but No. 2 seed Murray State made the final play and escaped with a 77-74 victory.

Senior Anthony Fisher closed his four-year career with 26 points and eight assists, both highs for the game. Senior Amadi McKenzie had 12 points and seven rebounds, while Rashaud Nixon had 11 points, two assists and two steals in his final career game.

Tech also got a huge performance from junior Daniel Northern with his 14th double-double of the year, 17 points and 13 rebounds, along with five blocked shots.

Bruce Carter led Murray State with 24 points and 12 rebounds, while Kevin Thomas and Ray George scored 14 points each.

The difference in the game never got to more than eight points, and was just one point at halftime with MSU holding a 40-39 lead.

With the clock winding down, Kevin Thomas drove the right side and drew the defense, and he found Danero Thomas cutting free on the baseline. His basket came with 2.3 seconds to play, and Tech's inbounds pass was stolen at the other end.

In the regular season finale, Tech found a way to win when it needed a win, handing Murray State a 71-66 loss in Eblen Center before a national TV audience. It clinched a spot in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament.

Fisher topped Tech with 22 points along with six rebounds, five assists and two steals, and Nixon produced 14 points and six rebounds. Tech also got another double-double from Northern with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Murray State had three players in double figures, led by Danero Thomas and Bruce Carter with 15 points each. Marvin Williams added 10 points.

Murray State used a big run in the early going and some solid work on the offensive boards in the second half to claim an 81-67 victory in the first meeting of the year.

McKenzie notched a double-double with 10 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. Northern was Tech's leading scorer with 19 points, including 9-for-11 at the free throw line. He also had six rebounds and two blocked shots. Fisher added 16 points and five assists, while Frank Davis dropped in a career-high five 3-pointers and also finished with 16.

Murray State was led by Carter's 21 points and nine rebounds as the Racers claimed a 38-29 lead on the boards. Tyler Holloway also scored 21 points and Thomas Danero scored 11.

It's Pack The House Night at Tech. The gates open at 4 p.m., with the women's nationally televised game starting at 5:05 p.m. FOr ticket information, visit or cal the Athletics Ticket Office in Eblen Center (931-372-3940).