Golden Eagles open homestand with longtime rival East Tennessee State
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Tech returns to the Eblen Center this week for a two-game homestand against a pair of in-state rivals, beginning with East Tennessee State on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., immediately after the women's game.
The Golden Eagles are coming off a 10-point road loss to Atlantic 10 Conference opponent Duquesne and are looking to even their record at .500.
This week's homestand offers the Golden Eagles the opportunity to face two in-state rivals with similar programs on their own home court before hitting the road for six consecutive games that will take them through the Christmas and New Year's holiday. Tech is 2-2 at home this season with victories over Reinhardt and Wilberforce and losses to Appalachian State and Lamar.
After trailing by just four at halftime at Duquesne, Tech lost its grip on the game early in the second half, allowing the Dukes to score on their first six possessions of the period and go on a game-deciding 14-2 run en route to a 77-67 victory. Kevin Murphy dropped in 18 points and grabbed six rebounds while Jud Dillard added 14 points and eight rebounds. Zach Bailey scored all 14 of his points in the second half.
Wednesday's matchup with East Tennessee State marks the 66th all-time meeting between the two schools. ETSU holds a slight 34-31 advantage in the series, which began in 1929. Only Middle Tennessee State is an older rival for the Golden Eagles among current Division I squads. The series with the Blue Raiders began three years earlier in 1926.
Recently, the series has dominated by East Tennessee. The Bucs have won their last six games against Tech and is 5-0 in the series since 2000. In the two squads' last meeting in 2010, ETSU held a seven-point lead at halftime and maintained it down the stretch by scoring inside and getting to the free-throw line en route to a 73-60 win in Johnson City. Kevin Murphy and Alfred Jones led Tech with 13 points apiece.
After seven games this season, Kevin Murphy leads Tech in scoring, averaging 19.3 points per game. The Golden Eagles are also getting double-figure scoring from Jud Dillard, who is contributing 15.9 points per contest as well as an OVC-leading 8.6 rebounds per game.
East Tennessee, which has also played seven games, has four players averaging double-figures, led by Marcus Dubose, a 6-foot-2 junior guard from Hartsville, S.C. Dubose is contributing 14.3 points per contest. Senior guard Adam Sollazzo (12.3 points per game), senior forward Isiah Brown (12.0) and senior guard Tommy Hubbard (11.3) are also offensive weapons for the Buccaneers. Brown is ETSU's leading rebounder, pulling down 6.9 boards per contest.
Like Tech, ETSU is also 3-4 on the season. After opening with a 64-53 loss at Virginia Tech, the Buccaneers won three consecutive games, beating Appalachian State and Troy at home and securing a one-point victory at Charlotte. Since then, however, ETSU has lost its last three, including its first two conference games on the road at Stetson and Florida Gulf Coast.
Tickets for Wednesday's game are available at the Eblen Center box office or by calling (931) 372-3940. The game will be broadcast live on WHUB, AM 1400 and on the Internet at www.1400TheHub.com. Fans can also listen via Teamline by calling (216) 502-3200 and entering team code 0654. Cost is $5 per call.
Tech ends its homestand Saturday, facing Lipscomb at 7 p.m.
-With three three-pointers against Duquesne on Saturday, Kevin Murphy has now hit at least one trifecta in his last 12 games. The streak began last season against Jacksonville State on Feb. 26 and featured a four three-pointer night for Murphy against Morehead State in the OVC Championship game. Since the streak began, Murphy has gone 22-for-52 from long range for a percentage of .423.
-The starting lineup the Golden Eagles fielded at Duquesne Saturday was the fourth different starting five Tech has put on the floor in seven games this season. Dennis Ogbe earned his first start of the season against the Dukes while Liam McMorrow came off the bench for the first time this year. At least one variation of Tech's lineup has been due to injury -- Terrell Barnes has started five consecutive games after missing the first two due to a foot injury. However, only two Golden Eagles -- Zac Swansey and Jud Dillard -- have started all seven games. Eight different players -- Swansey, Dillard, Ogbe, McMorrow, Barnes, Kevin Murphy, Bassey Inameti and Zach Bailey -- have started at least one game.