By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech men's basketball team continues its three-game road trip with its biggest test of the season to date, taking on No. 7 ranked North Carolina Friday evening at 6:00 p.m. CT in Chapel Hill, N.C.
Tennessee Tech (0-3) at #7 North Carolina (3-0)
Friday, Nov. 16, 2018
6:00 p.m. CT
Dean E. Smith Center (21,750) – Chapel Hill, N.C.
This will mark just the second meeting between the two programs all-time, with North Carolina owning a 1-0 advantage.
The lone match-up came back on Dec. 12, 1999, a game that went to the Tar Heels by an 85-59 decision.
In the meeting, UNC's Jason Capel led all scorers with 21 points on 8-for 10 shooting. Future NBA Champion Brendan Haywood collected 16 points on a perfect 7-for-7 from the field while Ed Cota (15 points) and Joseph Forte (11 points) also finished in double figures.
As for the Golden Eagles, Josh Heard led the way with 18 points, sinking six of a whopping 16 attempts from downtown. Corey Hemphill also tallied double-digits, finishing with 11 points. Larrie Smith nearly put up a double-double, scoring nine points with eight rebounds.
UNC was unconscious in the second half, shooting 75 percent from the field. The Tar Heels finished at 59.6 percent from the floor for the game.
TECH VERSUS THE ACC
The Golden Eagles are 3-19 all-time against the current membership of the Atlantic Coast Conference. TTU is 1-14 all-time on the road against the ACC.
Tech has taken on nine of the conference's 15 teams. The Golden Eagles have never faced Boston College, Duke, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Virginia or Wake Forest.
All three of Tech's victories against ACC competition have come against Clemson. The Golden Eagles own a 3-3 mark all time against the Tigers, including a 1-1 record on the road.
TECH VERSUS NORTH CAROLINA
The Golden Eagles are 15-19 all-time against current Division I competition from the state of North Carolina, including a 3-12 mark on the road.
Tech has taken on 11 of 18 current Division I programs from the state of North Carolina. The Golden Eagles have never faced Campbell, Davidson, Duke, Elon, North Carolina A&T, UNCG or Wake Forest.
Tech's best record against a North Carolina institution is a 5-2 mark against Western Carolina. The Golden Eagles also own a 2-1 record when facing UNC Asheville.
For the second straight game, senior Courtney Alexander II put forth a double-double effort, posting 12 points and 13 rebounds at Savannah State. He flirted with a triple-double, dishing out a team-high seven assists.
Freshman Hunter Vick led the Golden Eagles in scoring for the first time this season against the Tigers, dropping 22 points on 9-for-20 shooting. He became the first Tech freshman with at least 20 points in a contest since Chase Dunn scored 21 against Bluefield College on Jan. 2, 2011.
His 22 points marked the most by a Golden Eagle rookie since Jud Dillard dropped 24 at Tennessee State on Feb. 15, 2010.
Senior big man Micaiah Henry notched his second 20-point outing of the season and his career, shooting a red-hot 10-for-13 from the field for 21 points. He added seven boards and three blocks.
The 2018-19 schedule proves as one of the most daunting for the Golden Eagles in program history. Current preseason rankings would have it be the first season in team history where the Golden Eagles face three preseason top-10 teams. (No. 6 Tennessee, No. 8 North Carolina and No. 10 Michigan State).
Tech has faced three different top-15 teams just once in school history, back in 1993-94. Then head coach Frank Harrell's squad took on No. 1 Kentucky, No. 12 Indiana and No. 14 UConn throughout the season.
Tech was predicted to finish fifth overall in the 2019 OVC race in voting by the league's head coaches and SIDs.
The 2018-19 Tech roster features 17 players (13 scholarship student-athletes) representing five states.
Ten Golden Eagle players hail from the state Tennessee, while Georgia boasts a total of three Tech players. Florida represents home to two Golden Eagles while both Alabama and Illinois are represented by one Tech player each.
Tech has two graduate students, two seniors, four juniors, one sophomore, one redshirt freshman and seven true freshmen.
Ten Golden Eagles stand 6-foot-5 or taller while the other seven measure in at 6-foot-4 or shorter.
A whopping 11 members are new to the Tech squad for 2018-19, including Spencer Chandler, Jr. Clay, Garrett Golday, Malik Martin, Chris McNeal, Caden Mills, Chase Ridenour, Jared Sherfield, Tyler Thompson, Johnnie Vassar and Reece Wilkinson.
WINDS OF CHANGE
Last year, the Golden Eagles returned 71.0 percent of their scoring. This season, things look a little different for the purple and gold. Just 19.4 percent of Tech's points will return in 2018-19.
In 2017-18, seven of TTU's top eight scorers returned to help lead the team to 19 wins. This season, the Golden Eagles have lost their top five scorers from last year, all of which averaged double figures.
Senior Courtney Alexander II represents the top returner at 6.8 points per game.
Tech represents the only OVC team in the league not returning at least one of its top five scorers from a season ago.
Alexander also marks the only returning starter from 2017-18, making 32 starts in 33 games. He led the team in both rebounds and blocks last season.
Tennessee State is the only other team in the OVC returning just one starter from last season. The team also hired a new head coach in the offseason.
Tech's five returning players who saw action in 2017-18 ranks the Golden Eagles as the second-lowest in the league behind Southeast Missouri's four. Belmont also returns just five players from last year.
Overall, the Golden Eagles return just 27.1 percent of their total minutes played from 2017-18, the 12th lowest percentage in the nation. Of Tech's opponents in 2018-19, only Chattanooga returns less (15.2 percent).
Photo by Tony Marable