By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information Coordinator
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – It's game two of a four-game homestand for the Tennessee Tech men's basketball team as the Golden Eagles will play host to the Milwaukee Panthers in a 7 p.m. bout in the Eblen Center.
Special for the game is the ability to watch some free basketball as any fan who brings their ticket from the football game earlier in the day, will receive free admission to the basketball game. The Tech football team plays Austin Peay at 1:30 p.m. at Tucker Stadium.
The Golden Eagles are coming off a loud, 92-39 victory over Indiana-Kokomo Thursday evening, kicking off the home stretch with a commanding win. Tech saw scoring from all 13 players that saw the court against the Cougars and will try to mimic that output against the Panthers.
The contest marks the second of four straight home games for the Tech squad, something the team will want to continue to take advantage of before it hits a grueling patch of its schedule in December. From Dec. 5 to Jan. 4, the Golden Eagles will play seven of their eight contests on the road.
Milwaukee has been impressive to start the 2013-14 season, running off four wins last week while winning the Northern Illinois Invitational Tournament. The Panthers did lose their first home contest Tuesday evening, falling to Big East foe DePaul by just nine points.
Tennessee Tech (3-3) vs. Milwaukee (4-2)
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013
7:00 p.m. CT
Eblen Center (9,280) - Cookeville, Tenn.
Radio: 106.1 The Eagle (Roger Ealey)
Webcast: Golden Eagle Sports Network on the OVC Digital Network (Dylan Vazzano)
Setting the Stage
It hasn't been long since the last time the Golden Eagles and Panthers clashed. Less than a year ago, in fact, as the Tech squad made a December trip to the cheese state.
The Golden Eagles used a strong defensive effort combined with a steady offensive attack to down Milwaukee in its home gym by 11 points, winning 69-58. For the game, Tech shot 47.5 percent from the field while holding the Panthers to a 32.2 percent clip.
Jud Dillard led all scorers in the contest, pouring in 17 points on 50 percent shooting while also collecting 11 rebounds for one of his 10 double-doubles on the year. Dillard was one of just four Golden Eagles to score in double-figures.
Also lighting up the scoreboard was Dennis Ogbe, who finished with 15 points as well as eight rebounds. The then-junior went an impressive 6-for-8 from the field while connecting on both free throw attempts and his only 3-point attempt.
Lanerryl Johnson added 15 points as well, forcing three turnovers and making three assists in the game. Jeremiah Samarrippas had a nice day overall, scoring 10 points and grabbing four rebounds. The point guard also dished out six assists to just one turnover while recording a game-high four steals.
Milwaukee had three double-digit scorers in the affair, including Jordan Aaron (15), James Haarsma (14), and Kyle Kelm (10). Haarsma and Kelm added 14 and nine rebounds, respectively.
Tech expanded a four-point, first-half lead to double-digits in the second half, heating things up on the defensive side of the ball. The Panthers shot just 28.6 percent in the second stanza, being limited to 27 points over the final 20 minutes.
Following the victory, the Golden Eagles moved to 6-4 on the year while Milwaukee fell to just 3-9.
In just six games, this year's installment of the Milwaukee Panthers has already out-produced last season's win total in 12 games, owning a 4-2 overall mark heading into Saturday's action. The Panthers have yet to lose a game by double-figures this season with the largest defeat coming by nine at home against Big East member DePaul.
Milwaukee won the NIU Invitational last weekend, defeating San Jose State, James Madison, and host Northern Illinois for its first tournament title since 2002-03.
The Panthers have won this season by simply outplaying each opponent in different areas of the game. UWM owns a +1.7 turnover margin, making sure not to hurt itself in close games, and also owns a 1.1 assist/turnover ratio in addition to out-scoring opponents by three points per game.
The team has out-performed its opponents in making 3-pointers and free throws, has dished out more assists, created more steals, and blocked more shots. Heck the only thing Milwaukee's opponents have been better at this season is rebounding, owning a +3.0 advantage over the Panthers.
Six players play a key to the success of the Panthers, including three starters from last year's squad. Jordan Aaron, who was named preseason all-Horizon League and earned HL all-newcomer honors last season, scores 12.3 points per contest, ranking tied for second on the team. The senior earned all-tournament honors at the NIU Invite after scoring 24 points against James Madison.
Also returning is Kyle Kelm, another senior who averages 12.3 points per game. A forward, Kelm also grabs 4.3 rebounds per game and leads the team in field goal percentage. Austin Arians returns after starting last season, and is averaging 12.2 points per game as a sophomore forward.
Leading the team in scoring this season is Matt Tiby, a sophomore forward who transferred from Kirkwood Community College last spring. He averages nearly a double-double, pulling in 9.2 rebounds to go along with 15.5 points per game. He also earned all-tournament honors at the NIU Invite.
Steve McWhorter has played well as the starting point guard after sitting out the 2012-13 season after transfering from Indiana State. The redshirt junior is averaging 9.5 points and 3.6 assists on the year and is coming off a week after earning Horizon League co-Player of the Week.
J.J. Panoske wraps up the top threats for the Panthers. He doesn't average a ton of points (5.3 to be exact), but he makes a difference in the post with his ability to block shots. He has nine already this season, just one year removed from his record-breaking year of 41.
For the Golden Eagles, it's been a balanced attack that has carried the team thus far, with six players averaging at least seven points (not including DeOndre Haynes, who scored 10 points in his first game back from a foot injury that caused him to redshirt after just two games of action last season).
On top of the scoring charts are three JUCO transfers including guard Ty Allen (13.2 ppg), forward Ladon Carter (10.0 ppg), and Dwan Caldwell (8.7 ppg). Carter has provided explosive minutes off the bench for the Golden Eagles, blocking eight shots and making 11 steals while averaging 4.3 rebounds in just 17.0 minutes per game. He also leads the team and ranks second in the Ohio Valley Conference in field goal percentage with a mark of .784.
Allen has scored in double figures in five of his six games at Tech. Caldwell has been a dominant force on the offensive glass, grabbing 22 of his 40 rebounds this season on offense. He averages 6.7 boards per game while shooting 50 percent from the field.
Senior forward Dennis Ogbe is providing great output despite being limited earlier in the year with illnesses. He is averaging 8.2 points and 7.2 rebounds per game while shooting a robust .760 from the floor.
Josiah Moore has been a plus off the bench for the Tech squad, scoring 7.7 points per game while also dishing out 10 assists on the year and bringing in 3.8 rebounds per contest.
Point guard Jeremiah Samarrippas is averaging 7.2 points per game, but has been a valuable floor general, dishing out over four assists per game and making two steals per game.
As a team, the Golden Eagles have been a force to be reckoned with on the glass, ranking second in the OVC in rebounding. They average 38.2 boards per contest, seven more than their opponents, providing the team several second-chance opportunities and leading to many fast-break attacks.
Tech plays very solid defense, allowing opponents to score just 65.0 points per game. The squad has also blocked its fair share of shots, averaging 3.8 per game this season. Steals have been a niche of the Golden Eagles as well. They average 8.5 per contest.