COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- Last year the game in Eblen Center against
Jacksonville State allowed the the Tennessee Tech men's basketball
team to hand head coach Mike Sutton his milestone 100th career
Saturday night, the Golden Eagles are merely hoping to give Sutton his first win...first of the 2008-09 Ohio Valley Conference schedule, that is.
Tech brings a 5-1 record into the game against JSU following a 78-71 win Monday over Lipscomb. The Gamecocks have also enjoyed early non-conference success and own a matching 5-1 mark. JSU has won five straight, including three in a row on the road.
It appears this conference opener pits two of the league's heavyweights against each other at the starting line. Two teams picked in the lower half of the preseason poll (Tech was sixth and JSU was 10th) share the best mark in the conference.
The game will also feature a whole lot of players who have never seen each other before, as both rosters are loaded with newcomers.
Brandon Crawford, a 6-6 freshman from Birmingham, leads JSU in scoring, averaging 15.8 points per game while coming off the bench in all six contests. Another freshman, 6-5 Geddes Robinson from the Bronx in NYC, is second on the team in scoring with 14.2 ppg and leads the Gamecocks on the glass with 8.2 rebounds per tilt.
JSU is also getting double-figure scoring from 6-2 sophomore guard Jeremy Bynum (11.7 ppg) and 6-2 senior guard Jonathan Toles (10.5 ppg), as the Gamecocks are shooting 48.6 percent as a team and averaging 79.2 points per outing and yielding 68 points per game.
Close behind on the scoring charts are Nick Murphy, a 6-4 sophomore from the Bronx, with 8.0 ppg, and Stephen Hall a 6-6 freshman from Birmingham, with 7.2 points per contest.
If you're counting, the Gamecock roster lists seven newcomers. Tech, meanwhile, has eight first-year players including several who are having a major impact.
Senior Daniel Northern, a preseason all-OVC selection, leads Tech in scoring (14.0 ppg) and rebounds (6.2 rpg). Junior transfer DJ Lindsay is right behind in both categories, averaging 12.2 points and 5.8 boards.
Also in double digits are junior guards Will Barnes (12.0 ppg) and Frank Davis (10.0 ppg). Barnes leads the team in assists and Davis is tops in steals.
The next five leading scorers for Tech are all new to the roster this season, including Alex Davis (7.5 ppg) who sat out last year, freshmen Kevin Murphy (6.2 ppg) and Zach Bailey (6.0), and transfers Elijah Muhammad (5.8 ppg) and Alfred Jones (3.2 ppg).
As a team, Tech is hitting 48 percent from the field and averaging 79.8 points per game while giving up 67.8 points per game. Compare those to the numbers for Jacksonville State (in the sixth paragraph above) and you'll notice these two teams have reached this game on almost the same path.
In their meeting last season in Jacksonville, missed free throws cost the Golden Eagles in a 79-74 loss in front of 822 fans.
Jacksonville State won its first league game as five Gamecocks scored in double figures, led by Jonathan Toles with 21 and Amadou Mbodji had 19. JSU shot 51.6 percent from the field, including 41 percent from long range (7-for-17).
The Golden Eagles shot 40 percent from the field and went 17-for-32 at the line. That shooting inaccuracy offset a 44-31 advantage in rebounds by the Golden Eagles.
Anthony Fisher finished with 16 points to lead Tech. Daniel Northern had his fifth double-double of the year with 14 points and 14 rebounds, and also blocked three shots. Frank Davis also scored 14, including four 3-pointers, while Amadi McKenzie added 12 points and nine rebounds.
In the rematch in Eblen Center a month later, it took an extra few minutes before Tech handed Sutton his milestone victory, claiming an 87-85 overtime win. The game reached overtime when DeAndre Bray sank a 3-pointer as regulation ended, beating the buzzer to knot the score at 74-74.
Will Barnes led Tech with a career-high 22 points on 8-for-10 shooting, including 4-for-4 from long range. Davis had 18 points, Northern added 14 points, eight rebounds and six blocked shots, and Fisher posted 12 points, five rebounds and five assists. McKenzie had nine points and led Tech with nine rebounds.
Murphy finished with game highs of 27 points and 12 rebounds to pace the Gamecocks. Toles had 15 points, while Will Ginn and Wesley had 10 apiece.