COOKEVILLE, Tenn. — Coming off back-to-back wins at the Eblen Center, Tennessee Tech now must hit the road for six straight games away from home, beginning with Saturday's 1:05 p.m. matchup at Evansville.
Tech has won three of its last four and three consecutive at home to move above .500 for the first time in the short Steve Payne era. Both the Golden Eagles and Evansville have had a week off from game action prior to facing one another.
The bout with Evansville is just the beginning of a weeklong trip in which the Golden Eagles will travel to West Virginia then play two games at the iBN Sports Las Vegas Classic before returning home for the Christmas holiday.
In its last outing, Tech shot 51 percent from the field in the second period to overcome an eight-point halftime deficit, force overtime, and beat Lipscomb 89-87 on Dec. 10. Tech hit nine free throws in the overtime period and built a five-point lead with 47 seconds left. Kevin Murphy and Jud Dillard led the Golden Eagles, scoring 29 and 22 points, respectively.
Saturday's matchup with Evansville marks the 13th all-time meeting between the two squads in a series that has been controlled by the Purple Aces. Evansville holds a 10-2 overall edge and Tech will be looking for its first-ever win at UE after seven losses. Evansville has currently won six straight in the series with the last Tech win coming in 1953-54.
The most recent meeting between the two squads, however, couldn't have been closer. Evansville's Colt Ryan hit a jumper with five seconds left in double overtime to lift the Purple Aces over TTU at Eblen Center on Dec. 1, 2009. The game marks the last time Tech has lost on a game-winning shot by an opponent in the final five seconds.
The Golden Eagles had two chances to win the game, once at the end of regulation, when a charging foul negated what would have been a game-winning layup by Kevin Murphy, and again in overtime, when officials reviewed a last-second tip-in by Jud Dillard and ruled time had expired.
This season, Tech players currently lead the OVC in four individual statistical categories — Kevin Murphy in scoring (20.8), Jud Dillard in rebounding (8.3) and Zac Swansey in assists (5.3) and steals (2.6). In addition to his high rebounding marks, Dillard is also scoring in double-figures, averaging 16.3 points per outing.
The same Purple Ace who slew the Golden Eagles on his last-second three two years ago, Colt Ryan, is Evansville's leader this season, averaging 19.5 points per contest. The junior guard/forward from Batesville, Ind., is also UE's leading rebounder, averaging 5.1 boards. Senior forward/guard Kenny Harris and junior guard Ned Cox also score in double-figures for the Aces at 11.4 and 10.3 points per game, respectively.
Evansville is an even 4-4 on the season and is coming off an 86-65 home victory over North Carolina A&T on Dec. 10. The Purple Aces opened their season with an 80-77 overtime victory over defending national runner-up Butler. Evansville also has wins over Oakland City and Alabama State with losses coming to Indiana, Illinois-Chicago, TCU and North Carolina.
Saturday's 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.
The Golden Eagles have a quick turnaround after facing Evansville, traveling to West Virginia for a 6 p.m. tip-off Monday. The game is the first for both squads in the iBN Sports Las Vegas Classic, which begins at home sites and continues at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas next week.