By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech men's basketball team will make one more appearance in the Eblen Center prior to the New Year, returning home to host Savannah State in a rematch on Thursday, Dec. 20 at 6:00 p.m. CT. It will mark the final game for the Golden Eagles before taking a brief break for Christmas. Tech will close out its non-conference schedule on Saturday, Dec. 29 at Tennessee.
Tennessee Tech (3-8) vs. Savannah State (3-9)
Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018
6:00 p.m. CT
Eblen Center (7,500) – Cookeville, Tenn.
This marks just the second meeting between the two programs all-time, with Savannah State owning a 1-0 series lead.
The first match-up between the Golden Eagles and Tigers came earlier this season, on Nov. 13. Tech made a visit to Savannah, Ga. for the inaugural contest as part of a home-and-home series for the season.
The Tigers came out on top in the tilt, winning a barn burner by a final score of 97-83.
Courtney Alexander II posted a double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds and flirted with a triple-double by dishing out seven assists.
TECH VERSUS THE MEAC
The Golden Eagles are 4-1 all-time against the current membership of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
Tech has taken on four of the MEAC's 11 teams. The Golden Eagles have never faced Coppin State, Delaware State, Howard, Morgan State, Norfolk State, North Carolina A&T, and North Carolina Central.
The Golden Eagle loss at Savannah State earlier this season marked the first for the program to a MEAC team in school history, albeit in just five games.
TECH VERSUS GEORGIA
The Golden Eagles are 15-18 all-time against current Division I competition from the state of Georgia, including a 9-4 mark at home.
After visiting Savannah State earlier this season, the Golden Eagles have faced each of the seven current Division I programs from Georgia. Following its visit to Kennesaw, Tech also has played on the road against each of those teams.
TTU will host Savannah State for the first time, making just the Georgia Bulldogs and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets as the only Division I programs from the Peach State not to visit Cookeville.
Tech's best success against Peach State competition has come when facing Georgia Southern and Kennesaw State. The Golden Eagles are 6-4 against GSU and 2-1 against KSU. Tech also holds a winning record against Georgia State, 2-1, and a 5-5 mark against Mercer.
The Golden Eagles own at least one victory against four the of the Georgia schools, lacking success against only Georgia, Georgia Tech and Savannah State.
Redshirt freshman Hunter Vick led Tech with 20 points on 8-for-14 shooting at Kennesaw State, his third 20-point outing of the season. He became the first Tech rookie to accomplish the feat since Jud Dillard did it in the 2009-10 season. Kevin Murphy also had three such performances in 2008-09 as a rookie.
The last Tech freshman with at least four 20-point efforts was Bruce Oglesby back during the 1990-91 campaign. He spent just one season in Cookeville, ranking third on the team with 11.5 points per game.
Jr. Clay filled the box score, dropping 16 points, five rebounds, six assists and five steals in 32 minutes of action off the bench. His five steals marked the most by a Tech freshman since DeOndre Hayne forced five takeaways as a redshirt rookie against Indiana-Kokomo on Nov. 21, 2013.
The 2018-19 schedule proves as one of the most daunting for the Golden Eagles in program history. Preseason rankings placed it as the first season in team history where the Golden Eagles faced 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 Thomas Corhern