Both teams enter contest at 1-1 in OVC play
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Tech returns home after a six-game road swing to host in-state rival Tennessee State at 7 p.m. Thursday in Eblen Center.
The Golden Eagles haven't played a home game in nearly a month but are currently riding a three-game home winning streak, including December victories over East Tennessee State and Lipscomb. TTU went 4-2 during its stretch away from home and now prepares to play four of its next five games at the Eblen Center.
At stake in Thursday's contest is a leg up in the Ohio Valley Conference race as both teams enter with a 1-1 league mark. The game serves as Tech's home OVC opener.
In its last outing, Tech got a total team effort en route to an 85-62 win at Tennessee-Martin, evening their conference record at 1-1. Jud Dillard led the Golden Eagles with 25 points and eight rebounds, going 11-for-12 at the free-throw line and 7-for-12 from the field. UTM was within four points with 15:26 left in the game, but a thunderous dunk by Liam McMorrow ignited an 8-0 run and Tech opened up a double-digit lead it wouldn't lose.
Thursday's game with Tennessee State marks the 53rd all-time meeting between the two schools, which are separated by just 80 miles. Tech holds a slim 27-25 advantage in the series and no team has won more than two consecutive games over the other in their last 10 meetings. The two teams split last season's series, with each squad defending its home floor.
It was Zac Swansey's late-game magic that decided the last meeting between the Golden Eagles and Tigers in Cookeville last February. Swansey hit a spinning, 14-foot jump shot with 2.7 seconds remaining to lift Tech to a 61-59 win. Murphy led the Golden Eagles with a game-high 24 points and eight rebounds.
Currently, Tech players lead the OVC in four individual statistical categories – Kevin Murphy in scoring (18.8 ppg), Jud Dillard in rebounding (8.6 rpg) and Zac Swansey in assists (6.1 apg) and steals (2.8 spg). Dillard also ranks second in the league in scoring behind Murphy at 17.8 points per outing.
Tennessee State is led by junior forward Robert Covington, who ranks fourth in the OVC in scoring at 17.2 points per game and second in the league in rebounding with 7.7 boards per contest. The Tigers also get double-figure scoring from sophomore guard Patrick Miller, who contributes 11.7 points per game.
The Tigers enter the contest at 8-7 on the season and 1-1 in OVC play. TSU had won five consecutive games before suffering a 73-68 loss at Eastern Kentucky on Saturday. The Tigers' signature win of the season came in a 64-63 victory at South Carolina in the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational.
Tickets are available at the Eblen Center box office or by calling (931) 372-3940. Thursday's game will be broadcast live on WCTE-TV as well as over the airwaves 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.
The Golden Eagles conclude the weekend homestand on Saturday, hosting Morehead State at 7:30 p.m.