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December 21, 2011

Golden Eagles set sights on strong non-conference finish at Las Vegas Classic

Tech faces Kennesaw State at 4:30 p.m. CST Thursday

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – All the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles want for Christmas is two wins at the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic to propel them into looming Ohio Valley Conference play.

Tech continues play in the tournament as the Golden Eagles make the transition from the on-campus round to Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, where they will take on Kennesaw State at 4:30 p.m. CST Thursday, then face either Bethune-Cookman or Texas A&M Corpus Christi on Friday.

The Golden Eagles have won three of their last four games but are coming off a 19-point loss at West Virginia in the opening round of the Las Vegas Classic in Morgantown, W.V., on Monday. The tournament is part of a six-game stretch away from home for Tech that began with a two-point win over Evansville on Saturday and concludes after the new year.

Against WVU, Tech shot just 34 percent and went 1-for-15 from three-point range en route to a 72-53 loss. The Golden Eagles didn't have an answer for West Virginia forward Kevin Jones, who scored 25 points and added 14 rebounds. The bright spot for Tech was Jud Dillard, who notched his third double-double of the season with 15 points and 12 rebounds.

Thursday's matchup marks the first-ever meeting between Tech and Kennesaw State. The Golden Eagles are 96-52 all-time against current members of the Atlantic Sun Conference, with most of those games coming against in-state foes East Tennessee State, Lipscomb and Belmont. Tech has faced two Atlantic Sun squads already this season, notching an 83-74 win over East Tennessee State and an 89-87 victory over Lipscomb. Both games were played in Cookeville.

Tech players currently lead the Ohio Valley Conference in six individual categories – Kevin Murphy in scoring (19.7), Jud Dillard in rebounding (8.6) and defensive rebounding (6.2) and Zac Swansey in assists (5.5), steals (2.5) and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.0). In addition to his high rebounding numbers, Dillard is also averaging 16.4 points per contest.

Kennesaw State is led by junior guard Markeith Cummings, of Birmingham, Ala., who is averaging 17.4 points per game to go along with 5.7 rebounds. Senior guard Spencer Dixon and freshman guard Delbert Love also average in double-figures for the Owls at 12.1 and 10.1 points per game, respectively. Junior forward Aaron Anderson is Kennesaw State's leading rebounder at 8.7 boards per contest.

The Owls (2-8) have lost six consecutive games coming into Thursday's bout with Tech, including two in the Las Vegas Classic. KSU went on the road and lost to Missouri State 78-55, then traveled to Saint Mary's and fell 74-51. Prior to that, Kennesaw State had lost to Missouri, Lipscomb, Belmont and South Carolina State. The Owls' two wins have come at home against Reinhardt and on the road at Chattanooga.

Thursday's game will be broadcast live on WHUB, AM 1400 and on the Internet at www.1400TheHub.com. Fans can also listen via Teamline by calling (216) 502-3200 and entering team code 0654. Cost is $5 per call. Live stats will be streamed via CBSSports.com.

Depending on their fate against Kennesaw State, the Golden Eagles will next take on either Bethune-Cookman or Texas A&M Corpus Christi in their final game at the Las Vegas Classic. The game will tip off at either 2 p.m. or 4:30 p.m. CST on Friday.