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Golden Eagles return to nest Thursday for OVC tilt against TSU Tigers


COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Making its return to the friendly confines of the Eblen Center after nearly three weeks on the road, the Tennessee Tech men's basketball team will look to begin 2013 with a win Thursday night over visiting in-state conference rival Tennessee State.

Tennessee Tech (6-7, 0-1)
vs.
Tennessee State (7-7, 1-0)
Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013 / 7 p.m. CST
Eblen Center – Cookeville, Tenn.

The Broadcasts
Television - WCTE TV
Radio: Fox Sports Radio, 106.1 The Eagle (Roger Ealey)
Webcast: Live on the OVC Digital Network

Setting the Stage
Looking for its first Ohio Valley Conference win of the season, the Tennessee Tech men's basketball team hosts the Tigers of Tennessee State Thursday evening in the team's first home contest since Dec. 6. Tech pulled off a 74-68 victory over Green Bay in that contest, moving its home record to 4-1 on the season.

While the series dates back to just 1979-80, these in-state rivals have butted heads 52 times since the inaugural meeting. The Tigers grabbed a 62-61 victory in the first match-up and won the first three contests in the series.

The Golden Eagles boast the series lead however, a 28-26 lead that includes a series-best seven-game winning streak from 2001 to 2005. Over the past 10 meetings, the OVC foes have fought to a stalemate, each owning five wins since the 2007-08 season. While the last meeting was a double-digit affair, the nine games prior were all decided by eight points or less, including a double-overtime thriller in 2009-10.

The series has been split evenly between Nashville and Cookeville over the past 10 match-ups, with each team owning a three-game home winning streak.

Following a six-point loss on the road to the Golden Eagles in the first of two meetings last winter, the Tigers exacted some revenge on their home court, taking down Tech by 15 points in a Feb. 11 showdown, the last time these teams tangled.

The Golden Eagles struggled to shoot in that game, converting on just 35.6 percent of their shot attempts from the field. Current TSU star Robert Covington scored a team-high 16 points in the victory over Tech.

Tech finished 1-4 in its brutal five-game road stretch, grabbing the lone victory over Milwaukee, 69-58, on Dec. 15. Since then, Tech has dropped contests at Auburn, No. 24 Oklahoma State and Jacksonville State.

The Tigers are on a two-game winning spurt, boasting wins over USC Upstate and OVC opponent Eastern Illinois in their last two outings. Both wins came at home in Nashville.

Perhaps the biggest story line coming into the game is the likely absence of Tennessee State's star forward, Robert Covington. The senior led the Tigers in scoring in seven of their first 12 games and paced the team in rebounding before going down with a torn meniscus in his right knee on Dec. 18. Covington is expected to miss 4-6 weeks.

Despite the absence of its offensive leader, the Tigers have won their previous two games, thanks to outstanding play by seniors Jordan Cyphers and Kellen Thornton, and junior Patrick Miller. Cyphers scored a team-high 22 points in the win over USC Upstate and added 14 more against EIU. Thornton averaged 15 points over the two wins, and picked up a double-double over the Panthers. Miller garnered OVC Player of the Week honors after a 28-point outburst over EIU.

The Golden Eagles will look to rebound from a tough road outing in their OVC season opener at Jacksonville State. Senior Jud Dillard, who leads Tech with 18.4 points and 7.4 rebounds per contest, will look to revive an offense that has struggled of late, failing to shoot over 40 percent in three straight games.

The game will be broadcast on WCTE TV, making it the second TV game for the Golden Eagles this season. The other television game for Tech was against Oklahoma State.

Fans can tune in to 106.1 The Eagle to listen to live coverage of Tech's contest against the Tigers on Thursday. Radio coverage will begin 15 minutes prior to the 7 p.m. CST tip-off time. Fans can also view the live game feed on the OVC Digital Network, the Ohio Valley Conference's live webstream for free here.

Individual game tickets, as well as TTU season tickets, are on sale at the Athletics Ticket Office in Eblen Center or by calling (931) 372-3940.

To read more about the upcoming game and Tennessee Tech basketball, take a look at the game notes for the match-up against Tennessee State here.