By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – After a brief, one-game stop in the Eblen Center, the Tennessee Tech men's basketball team heads back out on the road to continue a stretch of six-of-seven games away from Cookeville Saturday night, visiting Furman in a 3:00 p.m. CT match-up.
Tennessee Tech (7-1) at Furman (4-3)
Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017
3:00 p.m. CT
Timmons Arena (5,000) – Greenville, S.C.
Tech (7-1) is off to its best start since the 2005-06 season. The Golden Eagles, under head coach Mike Sutton, finished 19-12 that season, including a 13-7 mark and third-place finish in the Ohio Valley Conference.
The Golden Eagles attempted a whopping 49 free throws against Lipscomb on Wednesday, sinking 37 tries. Both marked season-highs and the most in both categories by a Tech squad since the team hit 38-of-49 attempts in a 97-54 win over Union College (Ky.) on Nov. 13, 2007.
Tech has now won six straight contests, the longest win streak since the 2015-16 season. Should the Golden Eagles win Saturday, the seven-game streak would mark the longest since rolling off seven straight victories during the 2010-11 campaign. Tech went on to participate in the CIT in 2010-11 and the Vegas16 in 2015-16, the team's last two postseason appearances.
Furman is in its first season under the direction of head coach Bob Richey. Last season's head coach, Niko Medved, left to take over as the head man at Drake.
The Paladins began a run of five consecutive home games when it hosted the Big South Conference's Winthrop Eagles at Timmons Arena on Wednesday night. The Paladins will entertain Tech at 4 p.m. on Saturday before welcoming UNC Asheville to Greenville on Tuesday, December 5, at 7:30 p.m. South Carolina State visits Furman on December 9, with the Paladins set to host Montreat on December 14 in the final home game of the calendar year.
Furman ran its record to 4-2 on the season with back-to-back victories in the PK80: Phil Knight Invitational on Friday and Saturday at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn., over New Hampshire and Northeastern. The team's record shifted to 4-3 after a loss to Winthrop Wednesday night.
Senior Devin Sibley, who was tabbed Southern Conference Player of the Week on Tuesday, averaged 21 points, 9.5 rebounds and three assists per game in Furman's wins over New Hampshire and Northeastern this past weekend. The Knoxville, Tenn., native, who is averaging 18.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game, has scored 20 or more points in four of Furman's first six games and enters Wednesday's contest ranked 19th in school history with 1,473 career points.
This will mark the fourth meeting between the two programs all-time, with Furman owning a 2-1 lead.
Furman won the inaugural meeting between the two teams, a 95-78 victory Dec. 30, 1977 in Greenville, S.C.
The Golden Eagles took the second match-up, defeating the Paladins in San Juan, Puerto Rico, 62-58, Dec. 22, 1997.
The Paladins claimed last season's meeting, edging the Golden Eagles in the Eblen Center, 68-62.
TECH VERSUS THE SOCON
Tech is 144-69 all-time against the membership of the Southern Conference.
The Golden Eagles have faced all but three of current SoCon programs, with UNCG, Wofford and VMI representing the only teams not to have squared off against Tech.
Tech owns a .500 record or better against each of the seven SoCon teams it has faced.
TTU is 41-17 all-time against in-state rival Chattanooga and 37-37 when facing another in-state foe, East Tennessee State.
Tech is 8-6 against Samford, 5-2 versus Western Carolina, and 2-0 while taking on The Citadel.
TECH PICKED 5TH IN OVC EAST
Tech was predicted to finish fifth overall in the 2018 OVC race in voting by the league's head coaches and SIDs.
The 2017-18 Tech roster features 14 players (12 scholarship student-athletes) representing three states and five countries.
Five Golden Eagle players hail from the state Tennessee, while Georgia boasts a total of four Tech players. California represents home for one player.
Four Tech players were born outside the United States, all of which live in their native countries when not in Cookeville; Aleksa Jugovic from Serbia, Stephaun Adams from the U.S. Virgin Islands, Joan Duran from the Dominican Republic and Domen Omladič from Slovenia.
Tech has two graduate students, three seniors, three juniors, three sophomores, and three true freshmen.
Seven Golden Eagles stand 6-foot-5 or taller while the other seven measure in at 6-foot-4 or shorter.
DON'T SELL EXPERIENCE SHORT
Tech boasts arguably the most experienced team in the OVC entering the 2017-18 season, returning a whopping 77.3 percent of its minutes played from just a season ago. That mark ranks first in the league by over 10 percent (Eastern Kentucky returns 66.6 percent).
The Golden Eagles also return 71 percent of its scoring from the 2016-17 squad, ranking only behind the Colonels' 75.7 percent. Only Tech, Eastern Kentucky and Murray State return both of their respective top-two scorers, with TTU's Aleksa Jugovic and Kajon Mack combining for 27.0 ppg, EKU's Nick Mayo and Asante Gist totaling 34.4 ppg and MSU's Jonathan Stark and Terrell Miller teaming up for 37.9 ppg.
Aside from the Golden Eagles, only Eastern Illinois and Eastern Kentucky return at least four of their top-five scorers from last season. Tech will return six of its top-seven scorers from the 2016-17 campaign.
40TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE HOOP
Originally opened back in 1977, the Hooper Eblen Center was named for former athlete, head coach and administrator Hooper Eblen, who served the university for 33 years and was instrumental in planning the football stadium and basketball arena. This season, "The Hoop" – or as it was once known, "The Temple of Doom" – will celebrate its 40th season since opening for the TTU Invitational Volleyball Tournament on Sept. 20, 1977.
The Tech men's team hosted the first basketball game in the Eblen Center, earning a 72-71 victory over in-state foe Vanderbilt on Nov. 26, 1977.
The Tech men have enjoyed a home court advantage since the opening of The Hoop, boasting a win percentage of 70.1 in the Eblen Center. From Dec. 2, 2000 to Jan. 4, 2003, did not lose a game in the facility, amassing 33 straight victories for the longest home win streak in program history.
During its 40th anniversary, The Hoop will play host to 29 total basketball games, including 15 for the women and 14 for the men.
GIVE ME SOME SUGAR
After averaging 5.8 points as a freshman and 12.1 points as a sophomore, senior guard Aleksa Jugovic continued his upward trend by averaging a team-high 15.2 points per game last season. The slick shooting Serb became the 36th member of the Golden Eagles' 1,000-point club last year and currently ranks 24th on the all-time scoring list with 1,153 points.
Fans can follow Jugovic on Twitter under his handle/nickname @Serbian_Sugar. The moniker, originally developed by current assistant coach and previous director of basketball operations Gus Fraley, was created to help acclimate the Serbia native to the fans of Golden Eagle basketball.
A deadly 3-point sniper, Jugovic needs just 45 triples to break former Golden Eagle Frank Davis' all-time program record of 251 made 3-pointers. The senior knocked down 71 treys as a sophomore and 82 more as a junior. He currently has 23 on the year.
Jugovic went bananas in The Pit at New Mexico, finishing 11-for-12 from the field and a perfect, school-record setting 7-for-7 from downtown on his way to a career-high 31 points.
THE TRANSFER EFFECT
Three members of the 2017-18 roster are Division I transfers while a fourth is a Division II transfer. Graduate student Kajon Mack and senior Curtis Phillips Jr. both made their debut last season with much success. Graduate transfer Shaq Calhoun and Division II transfer Corey Tillery are both immediately eligible for the 2017-18 season and expected to contribute right away.
Two Golden Eagle players can make the trip to Cookeville from their respective home towns in about 20 minutes, just outside of shouting distance.
Senior Mason Ramsey hails from nearby Livingston, Tenn., just 20 miles north of Cookeville.
Sophomore junior college transfer Cade Crosland calls Sparta, Tenn. home, a less-than 20-mile trip south of Cookeville.
IT STARTS WITH A PHILOSOPHY
The Golden Eagle basketball team owns a philosophy that does not change from year-to-year.
Share the ball and play hard.
Be great defensively.
Know how we win. We win with great defense and an inside-out offense.
We win with high basketball IQ and low turnover totals.
This year's class also brings a special kind of chemistry and different energy level than previous teams.
The players approach everything with a willingness to learn and eagerness to get started and better every day.
JOINING THE RANKS
The Golden Eagles made three additions for the 2018-19 season during the early signing period, all from the state Tennessee.
Joining Tech from Van Buren County High School will be scoring guard Caden Mills.
Already a 2,000-point scorer, Milles averaged 26.0 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game as a junior.
Mills led VBCHS to a 28-5 record and third straight appearance to the TSSAA state tournament last season.
Joining Tech from Arlington High School will be forward Garrett Golday.
The 6-foot-7 signee averaged a double-double as a junior, with 19 points and 10 rebounds per game. He also added five blocks per game.
Golday led AHS to a District 14-AAA regular season title and earned All-Metro and All-Region honors.
Joining Tech from McCallie High School will be point guard Jr. Clay.
Boasting great speed, Clay averaged 13.8 points, 4.0 assists and 2.5 steals per game while leading MHS to an appearance in the state championship game.
Clay was named a finalist for the TSSAA Division II-AA Mr. Basketball Award and took home multiple postseason honors.
UP NEXT: DAYTON
The Golden Eagles continue their three-game road swing and stretch of six-of-seven games away from Cookeville, visiting Dayton on Wednesday, Dec. 6.
Dayton is in its first season under the direction of head coach Anthony Grant. Last season's head coach, Archie Miller, left to take over as the head man at Indiana after six seasons with the Flyers. Tech will play at Indiana on Thursday, Dec. 21.
Dayton returns the 11th-fewest number of minutes played in Division I (2,020). Only Mississippi Valley State (386), Pitt (648), North Carolina Central (862), Kentucky (890), Austin Peay (1,392), Robert Morris (1,612), Iowa State (1,728), Memphis (1,825), James Madison (1,881) and Chattanooga (1,909) have fewer.
Josh Cunningham leads the Atlantic 10 in rebounding (11.0 rpg) and has a double-double in two of his last four games.
Cunningham has 22 offensive rebounds, nearly half of Dayton's offensive rebound total of 49.
In the Charleston Classic, Darrell Davis averaged 24.0 points on 24 of 45 shooting from the field (.533) and 14 of 26 (.538) from 3-point range.
Darrell Davis ranks fourth in the A-10 in scoring (20.4 ppg) and has scored in double figures in every game this season.
Kostas Antetokounmpo has 11 blocks and twice scored in double figures in the last five games. He is shooting 14 of 20 (.700) from the field in that span.
In Dayton victories Xeyrius Williams is averaging 10.0 points with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.67. In the losses, Williams' averages drop to 7.0 points and 1.5 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Dayton is one of 19 schools to have made the last four NCAA Tournaments.
This will mark the third meeting between the two programs all-time, with the series tied at one win apiece.
The Golden Eagles won the inaugural meeting between the two teams, a 68-69 victory on Mar. 15, 2002 in Dayton as part of the first round of the NIT.
Tech would go on to quarterfinals of the NIT that season, eventually falling to the John Calipari-led Memphis squad.
The Flyers took the second match-up, defeating the Golden Eagles in Dayton, 81-60, Nov. 18, 2005.
TECH VERSUS THE A-10
Tech is 5-4 all-time against the membership of the Atlantic 10 Conference.
The Golden Eagles have faced exactly half of the A-10's current membership of 14 teams, inlcuding Dayton (1-1), Duquesne (0-1), La Salle (0-1), UMass (1-0), Richmond (2-0), St. Bonaventure (0-1) and VCU (1-0).
Tech owns a .500 record or better against four of the seven A-10 teams it has faced.
The Golden Eagles have never faced off against Davidson, Fordham, George Mason, George Washington, Rhode Island, Saint Joseph's or Saint Louis.
Photo by Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information