By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information Coordinator
TAMPA, Fla. - Even the most spectacular skyscrapers can crumble without a good foundation and that is just what the Tennessee Tech basketball team began building in its 72-62 loss to the University of South Florida Saturday evening.
Despite the loss, the Golden Eagles showed flashes and signs of a team that will grossly exceed their preseason ranking of sixth in the East Division of the Ohio Valley Conference. Even with seven new faces on the roster (nine if you include redshirts), six of whom saw playing time, Tech displayed resilience and refused to back down.
With 8:38 to play in the contest, USF owned a 51-38 lead, its second highest lead of the contest. The Golden Eagles, led by JUCO transfer Ty Allen, did not blink, putting together an 11-1 run over the next three minutes to pull within three points, 52-49.
Free throw shooting ended up determining the outcome, as the Bulls went 12-of-13 from the charity stripe over the final 1:25, despite missing 15 attempts on the night. Forward Victor Rudd connected on nine of the final 13 free throws attempted by USF, finishing 11-of-12 in the contest to finish with 23 points. He also pulled in six rebounds.
A junior from Chicago, Ill., Allen shined in his first career contest as a Golden Eagle, leading all scorers with 25 points in 29 minutes of action. Redshirt sophomore Josiah Moore also 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.
The Golden Eagles will return to Cookeville for their home opener on Tuesday, Nov. 12 as part of a double header with the Tech volleyball team. Slated for a 7:30 p.m. CT start, Tech will host the Loyola Chicago Ramblers in a rematch of last season's closely fought battle in Chicago, ultimately an 81-78 loss.
Tuesday's game marks two special events in addition to being the home opener. Any fan who comes to the volleyball match by the second set and stays for the rest of the match, will receive free admission to the basketball game.
Another special event is the recognition of the 1962-63 Ohio Valley Conference championship team, who is celebrating its 50th anniversary of making the NCAA Tournament. The Golden Eagles were matched up against the Ramblers in the first round of the tournament in 1963, losing to what would turn out to be the National Champions.