By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information Coordinator
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – In the finale of a four-game home stretch, the Tennessee Tech men's basketball team plays host to the Wolverines of Utah Valley Saturday evening. The game, which marks the final home contest Tech until Dec. 19, is set for a 7 p.m. CT start.
The Golden Eagles will need to take advantage of its final home game of the 2013 calendar year as it prepares for a brutal stretch of the schedule that includes seven of the next eight on the road.
Saturday night marks the first ever match-up between Tennessee Tech and Utah Valley as the Wolverines make the long trip southeast to Cookeville. The contest will also be the first of two this season between the two programs as the Golden Eagles will head to Orem, Utah on Dec. 28 as part of a home-and-home series.
Utah Valley sits at 2-3 on the year, having lost each of its previous three contests, all on the road. The Wolverines started the year with two wins at home over IUPUI and North Carolina A&T. Their three losses have come to No. 8 Oklahoma State, No. 18 Oregon, and Pepperdine.
Tennessee Tech (4-4) vs. Utah Valley (2-3)
Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013
7:00 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)
Setting the Stage
The Wolverines are a difficult team to judge, having played two of the nation's best programs over the past two weeks. The results have skewed the numbers some, but there are still some stats that can't be hidden when it comes to Utah Valley.
The team is shooting nearly 74% from the charity stripe this season, making its opponents pay for fouling. The team also moves the ball quite well, averaging 12.4 assists per game.
In their three games not against the top 25, the Wolverines are averaging just 68.3 points per game, but are limiting their opponents to 65.0 points per contest.
Six players make up nearly 93 percent of the Wolverines scoring, including all five starters. Each of the six average at least eight points per game.
Leading Utah Valley is Zach Nelson, a redshirt freshman forward from Yuba City, Calif. He averages 11.2 points per game as well as 5.4 rebounds per game.
Sophomore guard Hayes Garrity ranks second on the team, scoring 9.4 points per game off the bench. He is joined by junior forward Mitch Bruneel, who leads the team with a 50 percent shooting mark from the field, accounting for 9.0 points per game.
Three seniors make up the rest of the scoring for the Wolverines. Guard Holton Hunsaker, who leads Utah Valley in assists with 4.2 per game and in minutes with 31.8 per contest, averages 8.8 points.
Big man Ben Aird also scores 8.8 per game while leading Utah Valley in rebounding, pulling down 6.8 per contest. Guard Keawe Enos wraps up the top scorers, putting up 8.2 per game.
Tech come off a 98-83 victory over East Tennessee State in a game that saw the Golden Eagles dominate the glass, out-rebounding the Bucs by 19 along the way. This has been the staple of the TTU squad this season as it owns an impressive +8.6 rebounding margin over its opponents.
The defense as a whole has proven to be a plus for the Golden Eagles as they hold opponents to 67.9 points per game and own a +1.6 turnover margin. They also block 4.0 shots and make 8.1 steals per game while pulling down 39.8 rebounds.
On offense, the team is averaging 74.4 points thanks to distributed scoring. Four players have been at the top of the scoring efforts for the Golden Eagles, led by JUCO transfer Ty Allen's 12.8 points per game.
Following him is senior forward Dennis Ogbe, whose 10.4 points per game matches well with his 6.6 rebounds per contest. The Senior Class Award candidate also ranks second on the team with an impressive .696 shooting mark from the field.
Two more JUCO transfer have adjusted well to their new home. Big man Dwan Caldwell has been a force inside the paint, scoring 10.1 points and leading the team with 7.0 rebounds per game.
Forward Ladon Carter has been impressive off the bench, making highlight-reel dunks and fantastic defensive plays. He scores 9.8 point per game and leads the team in blocks with 10 and in steals with 14. He also averages 4.9 rebounds while leading the team in field goal percentage with a mark of .729.
Senior point guard Jeremiah Samarrippas has been a fantastic floor general, leading the team in assists with 33 while also making 14 steals and pulling down 2.8 rebounds.