Tech has won 8 of last 10 games, Racers undefeated
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The national spotlight falls upon Tennessee Tech Saturday as the Golden Eagles visit undefeated Murray State in a 5 p.m. ESPNU-televised contest that is also rife with Ohio Valley Conference implications.
The matchup with the Racers, ranked No. 15 in the AP poll and No. 14 in the Coaches Poll, is Tech's first bout with a ranked squad since facing Michigan State on Nov. 28, 2010.
The Golden Eagles, picked second in OVC preseason polling, are hot, coming into Saturday's contest winners of 8 of their last 10 games and on a three-game winning streak.
Tech players lead the conference in four major statistical categories – Kevin Murphy in points (19.7 ppg), Jud Dillard in rebounds (8.5 rpg) and Zac Swansey in assists (5.9 apg), steals (2.6 spg) and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.0). Swansey ranks seventh in NCAA Division I in steals and 25th in assists while Murphy is the nation's 22nd-leading scorer. Dillard also averages 18.2 points per game, ranking him third in the OVC and 46th in the nation.
Murray State is 16-0 and one of three remaining undefeated teams in college basketball. The Racers have wins over then-No. 21 Memphis, Dayton and Southern Miss.
Murray State officials announced Thursday the game is sold out, but more tickets may become available just prior to tip-off depending on MSU student turnout.
At 11-6 overall and 3-1 in conference play, Tech sits one-and-a-half games behind the Racers in the OVC standings. The Golden Eagles have won three consecutive league games over Tennessee-Martin, Tennessee State and Morehead State after dropping their opener at Southern Illinois-Edwardsville.
TTU is coming off one of its best defensive performances of the season in a 66-55 victory over Morehead State on Jan. 7 at the Eblen Center. Kevin Murphy led Tech with 24 points and a career-high six three-pointers to go with six assists.
Saturday's game with Murray State marks the 169th meeting between the two schools. Tech has played more games against the Racers than any other opponent in its history. Murray State is also Tech's fourth-oldest Division I opponent – the series began in the 1929-30 season.
Tech trails the all-time series 121-47 and Murray State holds a 7-3 edge over the last 10 games, but the Golden Eagles had the last laugh in the series, defeating the regular-season champion Racers in the OVC Tournament semifinals last season. Tech was the last OVC squad to beat Murray State.
In that game, TTU held Murray State to 3-for-18 from three-point range and 33 percent shooting. Zac Swansey knocked down a three-pointer with 24 seconds left, giving the Golden Eagles a five-point cushion they wouldn't lose.
This season, Murray State is led by junior guard Isaiah Canaan, who is averaging 18.7 points per game, has hit 50 three-pointers and is shooting 51.0 percent from beyond the arc. Senior forwards Donte Poole and Ivan Aska also average in double-figures, scoring 13.3 and 12.6 points per game, respectively. Aska, who is also the team's rebounding leader at 6.0 boards per game, has missed the Racers' last two contests due to injury.
Saturday's game will be broadcast live on ESPNU and ESPN3.com as well as over the airwaves on the Golden Eagles Sports Network, 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.