December 10, 2008

Golden Eagles return from finals to host Union College Bulldogs

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- More than a week since their last game, the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles return to action Sunday afternoon by hosting Union College (Ky.) in a non-conference game. Tipoff in Eblen Center is at 2 p.m., and as a special feature, fans will be admitted free by presenting a church bulletin.

Tech and Union have met only five times through the years, with the Golden Eagles holding a one-game edge. Tech earned a 97-54 victory in Eblen Center in the third game of last season, pushing Tech on top in the series, 3-2.

In last year's win, Amadi McKenzie led the way with a career-high 24 points and six rebounds, one of five Golden Eagles to score in double figures as Tech claimed its first win of the season.

In addition to McKenzie's production, Anthony Fisher, Rashaud Nixon and Charles Moore each scored 14 points and Frank Davis netted 12.

Union was led in scoring by seniors Aaron Dunaway and Brian Kirk with 10 points each.

An 18-3 run by Tech to start the second half opened the gap to a 30-point margin and the Golden Eagles continued to pull away. Tech got on top by 42 points, 80-38, for the largest lead of the contest.

Tech forced 31 turnovers and held the Bulldogs to 38.8 percent shooting from the field. Tech also blocked six shots, five by Daniel Northern. Tech had 20 steals in the game, with Nixon getting a career-high six thefts.

After opening the year with five straight losses, Union has found the right combination over the past month and the Bulldogs have won six of their last eight games for a 6-7 overall record.

On Saturday, the Bulldogs slipped past Virginia Intermont, 79-75, then claimed a 76-70 victory Tuesday night over Alice Lloyd College.

Like Tech's Mike Sutton, Union head coach Kelly Combs is in his seventh season at the helm and comes to Cookeville with a 103-108 career record. A Richmond, Ky., native, Combs is a 1992 graduate of Eastern Kentucky University. He guided the 2002-03 Bulldogs to a 22-11 record, the program's first 20-win season in nine years.

As a player, Combs was a Bulldog in the 1987-88 season, then transferred to Kentucky Christian College and helped win the NCCAA National Championship.

Three players are averaging in double figures on the scoreboard for the Bulldogs, with two more close behind. Beau Brown, a 6-3 junior guard from Athens, Tenn., tops Union with 12.9 points per game and is second on the squad in rebounds with 4.2 per contest.

Next in scoring is 6-6 sophomore James Johnson from Lexington, Ky., averaging 11.1 points. He is shooting a team-best 59 percent from the field and leads the team in rebounds with 5.5 per game.

The third Bulldog hitting double figures is 5-9 sophomore guard Michael Hester from Independence, Ky., with 10.5 points per game. Hester also leads Union in assists and steals.

Also chipping in have been Kearney Demus, a 6-3 junior forward from Lexington, Ky., with 9.7 points per game, and Brett Miller, a 6-9 junior from Carrolton, Ky., with 8.4 points per game.

The Golden Eagles are 5-2 this season, dropping an 82-66 decision last Saturday to Jacksonville State. The Golden Eagles then took the entire week off for final exams.

Tech also has three players scoring in double figures, led by Northern's 12.7 points per game. He's shooting 50.9 percent and leads Tech with 5.8 rebounds per contest. He also ranks first in the league with 19 blocked shots.

DJ Lindsay is second on the team in both scoring (11.6 ppg) and rebounds (5.7 rpg). Junior guard Will Barnes is the third double digit scorer for Tech, averaging 10.6 points per game. Just behind is Frank Davis with 9.9 points per game.

UP NEXT: The Golden Eagles load the bus right after the game against Union and motor to the Sunshine State, where they challenge the Florida State Seminoles Tuesday night. From there, Tech plays at Vanderbilt on Saturday night and Louisiana-Monroe (Dec. 29) to finish out the 2008 portion of the schedule.