By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information Coordinator
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Thursday evening marks a golden opportunity for the Tennessee Tech men's basketball team as the Golden Eagles return to Cookeville for an Ohio Valley Conference clash with in-state rival Tennessee State.
The Golden Eagles will look to earn the season sweep over the Tigers in a 7 p.m. CT contest, and in the process, move their record back to .500 in league play and take another step closer toward the OVC tournament.
Tech's stingy defense was on display the last time these two teams met, as the Golden Eagles held Tennessee State to just 53 points. Tech also held Patrick Miller, who leads the OVC in scoring with 23.2 points per game, to a season-low 13 points.
Tennessee Tech (10-12, 3-4) vs. Tennessee State (2-21, 1-8)
Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014
7 p.m. CT
Eblen Center (9,280) – Cookeville, Tenn.
TV: WCTE (Buddy Pearson and Frank Harrell)
Radio: 106.1 The Eagle (Roger Ealey)
Webcast: OVC Digital Network (Buddy Pearson and Frank Harrell)
SETTING THE STAGE
It's round two in the Eblen Center as Tennessee State makes its way to Cookeville for a rematch of the Ohio Valley Conference season opener with the Golden Eagles. Tech broke a 28-28 series tie earlier this month, besting the Tigers in the Gentry Center, 57-53.
The win broke a three-game winning streak in the series for Tennessee State and marked Tech's first victory over the Tigers in Nashville since 2009.
The Golden Eagles are looking forward to their return to the Eblen Center after a tough road trip that saw Murray State and Austin Peay pick up victories. Tech, which is 7-2 at home this season will look for huge fan support in its "Gold Rush" game as fans are encouraged to wear gold to support the Golden Eagles against the Tigers. The first 1,500 fans will receive free 'Gold Rush' t-shirts.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET
A hot start to conference play is always an advantage for a college basketball program, especially when it comes on the road. The Tennessee Tech men's basketball team took advantage right off the bat Thursday night in its Ohio Valley Conference opener, defeating Tennessee State, 57-53, in Nashville.
A dogfight the whole way, the Golden Eagles were able to find fire from the 3-point line in the second half to eke out the four-point victory. Redshirt sophomore Josiah Moore paced the Tech offense, scoring 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting while also grabbing four rebounds. Big man Dwan Caldwell joined him in double-figures, collecting 10 points on the night.
The Tech defense proved stout in the affair, holding the OVC's leading scorer, Patrick Miller, to just 13 points, nearly eight below the guard's average. Kennedy Eubanks led all players with 15 points and finished with 10 rebounds for a double-double. M.J. Rhett also added a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
The first half was a complete slugfest as the two sides bullied their way for position while taking long possessions to try and wear down each respective defense. The score reflected the defensive struggle as TSU took just a three-point advantage into the half, leading 25-22.
The Golden Eagles looked to take control of things in the middle of the first 20, snapping together a 14-2 run while jumping to an 18-13 lead with just over 8:00 to play. But the Tigers responded with a little 10-0 run of their own, retaking the lead and keeping it for the remainder of the half.
Both teams came out firing on all cylinders in the second half, combining for four 3-pointers in the first four minutes. Tech went on to keep that hot streak going, connecting on a total of six treys in the final 20 minutes.
Senior guard Jeremiah Samarrippas finished the game with seven points and six assists, connecting on two 3-pointers while also helping on two more. Javon McKay added eight points to the scoring as well, dropping a career-high two treys.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Senior Dennis Ogbe leads the Tech squad in scoring, averaging 10.0 point per contest. He also ranks the highest for Tech in rebounds, pulling down 5.9 per game.
Junior Dwan Caldwell has played a key role as the big man in the paint for the Golden Eagles. He is averaging 9.6 points per game while grabbing 5.3 boards per contest. He also blocks 1.0 shots per game.
Point guard Jeremiah Samarrippas is the lead dog in assists for the Golden Eagles, averaging 4.0 per game while also leading the way with 39 steals. He tacks on 9.6 points per game as well. In OVC play, he is shooting an impressive 40.3 percent from beyond the arc while leading Tech with 13.1 points and 4.9 assists per game.
Ladon Carter provides great depth off the bench for Tech, ranking third in the OVC in field goal percentage with a .627 mark while scoring 7.5 points per game and pulling down 5.4 rebounds.
Redshirt sophomore Josiah Moore put together a fantastic effort the last time Tech faced Tennessee State, leading the Golden Eagles with 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting. He is one of six Golden Eagles averaging at least seven points this season, scoring 7.3 per contest.
JUCO transfer Jordan Johnson collected his seventh consecutive start of the season against Austin Peay. In seven OVC games he is shooting 39.4 percent from 3-point range.