Golden Eagles begin title hunt with OVC opener at SIU Edwardsville
Tech has won five of its last six games
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Tech, winner of five of its last six games, carries plenty of positive momentum into its Ohio Valley Conference opener at Southern Illinois-Edwardsville on Thursday.
The Golden Eagles, picked to finish second in the OVC in preseason polling, will play their first league game since falling to Morehead State in the conference championship last season when they tip off against the Cougars at Vadalabene Center at 7 p.m. CST.
Tech finished off the non-conference portion of its schedule with two victories over Kennesaw State and Bethune-Cookman at the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic prior to the Christmas holiday. The Golden Eagles also fell to West Virginia in the on-campus portion of the event.
Thursday's game continues a six-game stretch away from home for the Golden Eagles. Tech is 3-1 on the road trip thus far and returns to home action Jan. 5 when Tennessee State visits the Eblen Center.
In the Golden Eagles' last outing, they withheld a late Bethune-Cookman charge to hold on to a 67-59 victory and win the upper bracket of the Las Vegas Classic. The Wildcats cut what was once a 14-point lead to one with 1:49 left to play, but Zac Swansey knocked down a key jumper and the Golden Eagles got a steal and block from Terrell Barnes to secure the win. Kevin Murphy and Jud Dillard scored 22 points apiece to lead Tech.
Thursday's matchup marks just the third-ever meeting between TTU and SIUE. The two squads faced one another twice in 2010-11 (SIUE's final transitional year into full OVC membership) with the Golden Eagles winning both contests handily. Tech won 78-65 in Cookeville and took a 92-69 victory away from Edwardsville. Murphy and Dillard led TTU in its last meeting with the Cougars, scoring 18 and 12 points, respectively.
Tech players currently lead the OVC in five different statistical categories – Murphy in scoring (20.0 points per game), Dillard in rebounding (8.6 rebounds) and defensive rebounding (6.3) and Swansey in assists (5.6) and steals (2.5). In addition to his high rebounding numbers, Dillard also averages 16.8 points per contest.
SIU Edwardsville is led by three players who average within 0.3 points of one another. Junior forward Mark Yelovich is the Cougars' leading scorer at 12.1 points per game, followed closely by junior forward Jerome Jones (12.0) and freshman guard Kris Davis (11.8). Jones also leads SIUE in rebounding with 7.3 boards per contest.
The Cougars begin conference play at 2-7 on the season and are yet to win a game over a Division I opponent. SIU-E has lost three of its last four games, with losses coming at Southern Illinois and at home against Ball State and Cal State Fullerton. The Cougars' victories have come against Robert Morris (Ill.) and Hannibal-LaGrange.
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. The game will be streamed live on OVCSports.tv.
After facing SIUE, the Golden Eagles will continue their conference-opening road swing by traveling to UT Martin, where they will face the Skyhawks at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 31.