By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information Coordinator
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Tuesday evening marks much more than just the home opener for the Tennessee Tech men's basketball team. And while that will be much of the focus of the evening beginning at 7:30 p.m., the night will be marked by two special events.
First off, the Golden Eagles return home after a season-opening loss at the hands of a talented USF squad in Tampa, Fla., to face the newest member of the Missouri Valley Conference, Loyola Chicago.
The meeting comes a rematch of last year's contest when the Ramblers edged the Golden Eagles in the final seconds, ultimately winning 81-78, in Chicago. Tech will look for its first win of the 2013-14 season, fresh off an encouraging first game against the USF Bulls.
The contest marks the second half of the first double header between volleyball and basketball in Tennessee Tech athletics history. All fans who come early to support the volleyball team will receive a general admission ticket to the basketball game against Loyola Chicago. The free ticket offer will be extended to all fans who are at the volleyball match by the end of the second set.
Another event will also highlight the evening. Former head coach John Oldham, six players, two managers and the statistician from the 1962-63 Golden Eagle squad will be on hand for a 50-year reunion of the team that faced eventual national champion Loyola Chicago in early March in the 1963 NCAA Tournament. The group has several activities planned during its two-day visit, and will be recognized on the court at halftime.
Loyola Chicago (1-0) at Tennessee Tech (0-1)
Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013
7:30 p.m. CT
Eblen Center (9,280) - Cookeville, Tenn.
Radio: 106.1 The Eagle (Roger Ealey)
Webcast: Golden Eagle Sports Network on the OVC Digital Network (Dylan Vazzano and Marty Jones)
Setting the Stage
Tuesday's contest marks the fifth time these two squads have squared off since their initial meeting in the NCAA Tournament just over 50 years ago. The Ramblers own a 4-1 series lead, with the lone Golden Eagle win occuring in Cookeville in 2001.
Loyola Chicago, now in its first season in the Missouri Valley Conference, is coming off a season-opening victory over its former conference foe, Milwaukee, winning 76-72 in Chicago on Friday evening. The Ramblers shot exceedingly well in the contest, hitting on 50 percent of their field goal attempts, including 7-of-14 from 3-point range.
"They're a Missouri Valley Conference team," said head coach Steve Payne, "so you know coming in they're from one of the premier leagues in the country. That's enough to let you know they've got some good players. They have a good coach in Porter Moser, who's in his third year now. They have a transfer from Kansas in freshman Milton Doyle and they have several big men who can pop out and hit the 3-pointer. They're just a well-tooled squad. They 've got a lot of guys who can make plays, scoring-wise, from all over the floor."
One of those talented scorers, sophomore guard Jeff White, led the Loyola squad in its first contest, scoring a career-high 23 points in the win, including an impressive 11-of-11 from the charity stripe. Doyle added 18 points and junior forward Christian Thomas posted a double-double, contributing 11 points and 10 boards.
The Golden Eagles showed flashes of brilliance in their season-opening loss, refusing to back down from a 14-point deficit and come within three points against the Bulls, before falling, 72-62.
A JUCO transfer who hails from Chicago, Ill., Ty Allen shined in his first career contest as a Golden Eagle, leading all scorers with 25 points in 29 minutes of action. Allen became the first Tech player to score 25 or more in a season-opener since John Best in 1992. He also became the first Golden Eagle to score 25 or more in his contest with TTU since Tech Hall of Famer Earl Wise in 1987.
Redshirt sophomore Josiah Moore put up big numbers in his Tech debut, scoring 15 points off the bench. Also making an impact in his first career Division I contest was Dwan Caldwell, a JUCO transfer from Lancaster, Calif. The man they call "Big Po" was dominant on the glass, grabbing nine rebounds, including five on the offensive side of the ball.
Senior forward Dennis Ogbe, who came off the bench after missing most of the week with an illness, led all rebounders in the contest. The Senior Class Award candidate ripped down 11 to go with five points in just 20 minutes of action.
Returning to his home state, senior point guard Jeremiah Samarrippas did not disappoint the large crowd of friends and family who packed the Tech stands, dishing out six assists and making three steals to go with a monster 3-point shot down the stretch. The Bartow, Fla. native even managed to collect a block against the larger USF team, the third rejection of his career.