By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information Coordinator
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – It's back to Nashville for the Tennessee Tech men's basketball team as the Golden Eagles look to begin league play with a 2-0 sweep of in-state rivals Tennessee State and Belmont. Following a 57-53 defeat of the Tigers on Thursday evening, Tech will set its sites on the Bruins in a 4 p.m. contest on Saturday.
After winning the first 11 contests in the series, Tech was finally dealt a loss at the hands of Belmont last season, falling in both of the year's contests to the eventual Ohio Valley Conference champions.
The Bruins and Golden Eagles enter Saturday's contest ranked No. 1 and 2 respectively in the OVC East Division standings, having both started 1-0 in league play this season.
Tennessee Tech (8-8) at Belmont (9-6)
Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014
4 p.m. CT
Curb Event Center (5,000) - Nashville, Tenn.
Radio: 106.1 The Eagle (Roger Ealey)
Webcast: OVC Digital Network
SETTING THE STAGE
While not the longest rivalry for Tech, this one has been filled with classics throughout its history. Neither team has dominated with the series tied, despite 56 games between the two programs.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET
The Tennessee Tech men's basketball team couldn't quite play spoiler on Homecoming night for the Belmont Bruins, as a strong first-half effort wasn't enough to overcome the OVC's top team. Belmont tightened up its game and went on to win 74-52.
In the first half, the Golden Eagles played a stingy defense, holding the OVC's most potent offense to just 24 points and 38 percent shooting.They also held one of the league's best scorers in Ian Clark to a paltry five points in the opening 20 minutes.
Tech came out of the break with the same intensity, but the Bruins proved exactly why they are one of the nation's top offenses. Belmont shot a scorching 61.9 percent from the field in the second half, including nearly 67 percent from the 3-point arc.
Four Bruins players scored in double figures, including Kerron Johnson, JJ Mann, Ian Clark, and Trevor Noack. Noack led the Belmont offense with 19 points.
For the second straight contest, junior forward Dennis Ogbe torched the nets, scoring a career-high 19 points in the contest, including the first 11 of the game for the Golden Eagles. He also ripped down seven rebounds. He connected on seven of his nine field goal attempts of the game, hitting 3-of-4 from downtown.
Senior guard Jud Dillard put together his eighth double-double of the season, pouring in 17 points on top of 10 rebounds. The Atlanta, Ga. native had eight double-doubles all of last season.
Redshirt freshman Lanerryl Johnson scored 11 points in the contest, marking his first double-digit scoring effort in the past four games. Terrell Barnes, the other senior member of the Golden Eagles, pulled down a season-high seven rebounds on the night.
Sophomore guard Javon McKay dished out a season-high four assists in just 13 minutes of action while freshman big man Anthony Morse added two more blocks to his season tally. He now has 23 on the year.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Ty Allen has led the Golden Eagles in scoring all season long and currently averages 10.7 points per game. Right behind him, senior Dennis Ogbe is posting 10.0 points while also leading Tech in rebounding with 6.6 boards per game.
Junior Dwan Caldwell played a huge role in the second half of Tech's OVC-opening victory, scoring all 10 of his points over the final 20 minutes of play.
Point guard Jeremiah Samarrippas is the lead dog in assists for the Golden Eagles, averaging just under four per game while also leading the way with 27 steals. He also tacks on 7.9 points per game.
Ladon Carter provides great depth off the bench for Tech, ranking second in the OVC in field goal percentage with a .659 mark while scoring 8.1 points per game and pulling down 5.1 rebounds.
Redshirt sophomore Josiah Moore put together a fantastic effort at Tennessee State, leading the Golden Eagles with 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting. He is now averaging 7.4 points per game. His .361 mark from the 3-point line ranks him second on the Tech squad and first among players with at least 20 attempts.