Golden Eagles welcome in-state rival ETSU for Wednesday freebie

Golden Eagles welcome in-state rival ETSU for Wednesday freebie

Admission is free Wednesday afternoon when Tennessee Tech hosts East Tennessee State at 2 p.m. The game was postponed from Tuesday night. Anyone who purchased a ticket Tuesday may exchange that ticket for a free ticket to any future Golden Eagle game on the 2013-14 schedule.

By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information Coordinator

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – It's finally time for an in-state rivalry game at the Eblen Center as the Tennessee Tech men's basketball team will host East Tennessee State Tuesday evening at 7 p.m.

After several decades of of continued battles, this series went dormant in the early 1980's, shortly following the Buccaneers exit from the Ohio Valley Conference, it wasn't until the mid-2000's that the rivalry was resumed. This year's meeting marks the fourth straight in what looks to be rebuilt as a fierce in-state battle year-in and year-out.

Tuesday's contest also marks the third contest in a four-game home stand for the Golden Eagles, who sit 1-1 in that span after a tough loss Saturday to Milwaukee. Tech is 2-1 at home on the year, and will look to get back to its winning ways with the squad from Johnson City on the floor.

Tennessee Tech (3-4) vs. East Tennessee State (2-4)
Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013
7:00 p.m. CT
Eblen Center (9,280) - Cookeville, Tenn.

The Broadcasts
TV: none
Radio: 106.1 The Eagle (Roger Ealey)
Webcast: Golden Eagle Sports Network on the OVC Digital Network (Dylan Vazzano)

Setting the Stage
In last season's installment in this renewed in-state rivalry, Tennessee Tech prevailed in a tight, down-to-the-last-buzzer firefight. The Golden Eagles held on against the East Tennessee State Buccaneers in the final seconds to pull off a 65-62 win and move to 3-0 for the first time since 2008-09.

The Golden Eagles were led by gutsy performance by senior guard Jud Dillard, who flirted with a triple-double while scoring 25 points. In addition to dominating the game both early and late with scoring, Dillard also pulled down 10 rebounds to notch his second consecutive double-double. He added six assists in the game to tie his career-best mark as well.

Tech jumped out to an early nine-point lead, grabbing a 17-8 advantage with just over 12 minutes to play in the first half. The Buccaneers would answer quickly and with great emphasis, putting together a nifty and impressive 16-point run that gave them a seven point advantage with five to go in the first period.

ETSU would not relinquish the lead until the second period, taking a 29-26 lead into the half. The Buccaneer lead didn't last long, as the Golden Eagles stormed out of the half, scoring nine points in the first three minutes and regaining an advantage over the Bucs. East Tennessee State would tie the game up with 15:36 to play.

Junior guard and SMU transfer Jeremiah Samarrippas hit a jumper with just under 15 minutes to put the Golden Eagles up by two and start a solid run that would give Tech an advantage that couldn't be overcome by the Buccaneers. Helping extend the lead with some clutch shooting was freshman guard Ammanuel Diressa. Diressa knocked down three-pointers on back-to-back possessions to help balloon the Golden Eagle lead to as many as 13.

East Tennessee State showed its resilience, fighting until the very end and shrinking the Tech advantage down to as many as two points with 22 seconds to play. Samarrippas would hit one of two free throws to give the Golden Eagles a three-point lead with 14 seconds. ETSU missed a three-point attempt with three seconds to go and most fittingly, Dillard pulled down the board to give himself a double-double.

Junior forward Dennis Ogbe added a season-high 11 points, shooting 100% from the field and three-point line. He played especially well in the post, scoring four of his five buckets from the paint. Samarrippas also scored 11 for the Golden Eagles, a career-best as a member of the Tech basketball team for the point guard.

After dropping their first four contests of the 2013-14 campaign, the Buccaneers have really come on strong, winning each of their last two contests; an 89-75 victory over Samford and a 66-58 decision over Stephen F. Austin.

Both W's came at home for East Tennessee State, part of a three-game home stand that will come to an end Tuesday evening as the Bucs head to Cookeville for the first time since 2011.

Leading the way for the Bucs this season have been Rashawn Rembert and Kinard Gadsden-Gilliard. Rembert, a junior guard from Tampla, Fla., leads the team with 13.7 points per game while hitting on over 45 percent of his 3-point attempts.

Gadsden-Gilliard is a senior forward who pours in 13.5 points per contest while also averaging 5.3 rebounds per game. He can also shoot the 3-ball, connecting on 44 percent of his attempts. His .821 performance at the charity stripe leads the team.

A.J. Merriweather, a freshman forward from Jackson, Tenn., has been a beast on the boards for ETSU, averaging 7.5 rebounds per game, with two thirds coming on the defensive glass. He nearly averages a double-double, scoring 9.8 points per game on 50 percent shooting from the field.

Off the bench, junior guard Jalen Riley has provided solid production, averaging 9.5 points in just 12.7 minutes per game. Forwards Lester Wilson and Hunter Harris wrap up the offensive threats for the Bucs, scoring 8.5 and 8.2 points per game, respectively.

As far as the Golden Eagles are concerned, its been a score-by-committee kind of approach as six players average at least six points per game.

Leading the way is JUCO transfer Ty Allen, whose 13.0 points per game comes by way of nearly 42 percent shooting from the floor. He also leads the team in free throw percentage with a mark of .818.

Junior big man and JUCO transfer Dwan Caldwell has been a force this season, just missing out on double-doubles three times. He leads the Golden Eagle squad with 7.0 rebounds per game, including and impressive 29 offensive boards. He is tied for second in scoring with 9.3 points and has blocked eight shots on the year.

Joining Caldwell with 9.3 points per contest is another JUCO guy, Ladon Carter. The junior forward has shown off his great athleticism all over the floor, blocking nine shots and grabbing 12 steals while pulling in 4.7 rebounds per game. He leads the team in field goal percentage with an unworldly .775 mark.

Senior forward Dennis Ogbe has proven to be a leader both on and off the floor despite battling several illnesses to start the year. The Senior Class Award candidate is averaging 8.0 points and 6.4 rebounds per game in just 18.0 minutes of work per contest.

Redshirt sophomore Josiah Moore adds 7.7 points per game off the bench, adding a driver who can finish around the basket while also hitting from the behind the arc.

Senior point guard Jeremiah Samarrippas continues to lead the team in both assists (25) and steals (13) while averaging 6.6 points per game.

As a team, Tech has been monstrous on the glass, out-rebounding its opponents by over seven boards per game. The Golden Eagles are also outscoring their opponents by over five points per contest and have dished out more assists, forced more turnovers, and collected more steals and blocks.