By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information Coordinator
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Three wins in-a-row have the Tennessee Tech men's basketball team in the forefront of a tight positional race. That's the story for the Golden Eagles as they prepare to host Morehead State in another massive Ohio Valley Conference East Division battle Saturday night.
The Golden Eagles enter the contest fresh off another big conference victory, defeating Eastern Kentucky, 72-66, to gain more ground in the fight for a first-round bye in the OVC Tournament.
On the other side, Morehead State narrowly avoided an upset bid by Jacksonville State Thursday evening, pulling out a two-point win in Alabama to move to an impressive 8-3 in league play.
Tennessee Tech (13-13, 6-5) vs. Morehead State (17-9, 8-3)
Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014
7:30 p.m. CT
Eblen Center (9,280) – Cookevile, Tenn.
TV: WCTE (Buddy Pearson and P.J. Mays)
Radio: 106.1 The Eagle (Roger Ealey)
Webcast: OVC Digital Network
SETTING THE STAGE
One of Tech's longest-standing rivals in the OVC, the Golden Eagles welcome Morehead State to the Eblen Center after taking each of the past two contests from the Eagles in Cookeville.
This series has roots all the way back to 1949 when TTU joined the league and has been a pretty good battle each time it surfaces. Morehead State leads 76-63 all-time, thanks in large part to nine-game winning streak over the Golden Eagles from 2008 to 2011.
Fans never know what to expect in this match-up, but one things for sure, the games usually come down to the wire. Nine contests in the series have gone to overtime and each of the past three games have been decided by six points or less.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET
Dennis Ogbe made sure that his senior teammates, Jud Dillard and Terrell Barnes, would go out in style Saturday night. And in dramatic fashion.
The junior from Germany scored from inside and outside on his way to a career-high 26 points, leading Tennessee Tech to an exciting, last-minute 72-66 victory over Morehead State in Ohio Valley Conference play on Senior Night in the Eblen Center.
Tech (12-17/5-11 OVC) saw its season come to a close on a high note with the victory. The Golden Eagles were eliminated from the post-season earlier in the day, but still left everything on the floor.
Morehead State (14-17/8-8 OVC) advances to the OVC Tournament next week as the No. 5 seed.
Ogbe was 9-for-15 overall from the floor, including 5-of-8 from long distance, in his way to being the game's high scorer. He also had six rebounds and three blocked shots.
Dillard nearly matched him, finishing with 23 points, seven rebounds, three assists and four steals in his final game in a Golden Eagle uniform. Barnes had five rebounds in his last action.
Angelo Warner led Morehead State with 11 points and six rebounds while Chad Posthumous added 10 points and six rebounds. Eleven of the 12 Eagles who saw action scored.
Junior Jeremiah Samarrippas added nine points and five assists, scoring Tech's final five points in clutch fashion. With the contest tied at 66-all, the point guard fired up a long 3-pointer that hit nothin' but net with 52 seconds left, giving Tech a 69-66 lead.
Following a steal by Dillard, Samarrippas drained two free throws with 13 seconds left to make it 71-66.
Barnes grabbed a rebound on the defensive end that led to one final free throw by Dillard with one second left for the final margin. It was fitting that Dillard scored the final point of the season and Barnes retrieved the final rebound of the year for coach Steve Payne's squad.
Neither team ever held control of the contest, with seven points being the largest margin both ways. The scored was tied 11 times and the lead changed hands 12 times.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Senior Dennis Ogbe leads the Tech squad in scoring, averaging 10.3 point per contest. He also leads the Golden Eagles in rebounds, pulling down 6.0 per game.
Junior Dwan Caldwell has played a key role as the big man in the paint for the Golden Eagles. He is second on the team in scoring, averaging 10.2 points per game while grabbing 5.4 boards per contest. He also blocks 0.9 shots per game.
Point guard Jeremiah Samarrippas is the lead dog in assists for the Golden Eagles, averaging 4.2 per game while also leading the way with 42 steals. He tacks on 9.3 points per game as well. In OVC play, he is shooting 37.5 percent from beyond the arc while leading Tech with 11.2 points and 4.9 assists per game.
Redshirt sophomore Josiah Moore is one of six Golden Eagles averaging at least seven points this season, scoring 7.5 per contest. He went off for a career-high 22 points in the upset victory over Belmont and as well as adding a career-best eight rebounds.
Ladon Carter provides great depth off the bench for Tech, ranking third in the OVC in field goal percentage with a .637 mark while scoring 7.6 points per game and pulling down 5.3 rebounds.
JUCO transfer Jordan Johnson has started every conference game this season, shooting 38.3 percent from 3-point range and averaging 7.2 points.
DeOndre Haynes has added a huge spark each of the past three games, coming off the bench for extended playing time. The redshirt freshman guard is averaging 6.0 points over that span, while also dishing out three assists, making five steals, and pulling down five rebounds.