By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information Coordinator
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – With its battle to the west already a distant thought, the Tennessee Tech men's basketball team will take the fight to the east Saturday morning as the Golden Eagles head to Knoxville for an 11 a.m. CT tilt against the University of Tennessee.
Tech is coming off a tough start to its four-game road trip, falling in Nashville to the Lipscomb Bisons Thursday evening, 87-79. The Golden Eagles fought back twice in the contest from double-digit deficits, but great 3-point and free throw shooting enabled Lipscomb to hold on and grab the victory.
Over in Knoxville, the Vols return home from a trip to the Bahamas where they participated in the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament against the likes of UTEP, Xavier, and Wake Forest. Tennessee sits at 5-2 on the year, having won its last two contests. UT owns a perfect 3-0 mark at Thompson-Boling Arena this season, defeating another Ohio Valley Conference (Tennessee State) earlier in November.
The game can be viewed live on television on the Fox Sports Network or online on ESPN3. Fans can also listen to live action of the contest on 106.1 The Eagle as the long-time voice of the Golden Eagles, Roger Ealey, broadcasts all of the action from Knoxville. Coverage on The Eagle will begin approximately 15 minutes before the scheduled 11 a.m. tip-off.
Tennessee Tech (5-5) vs. Tennessee (5-2)
Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013
11:00 a.m. CT
Thompson-Boling Arena (21,678) - Knoxville, Tenn.
TV: Fox Sports Net (Bob Rathbun & Larry Conley)
Radio: 106.1 The Eagle (Roger Ealey)
Setting the Stage
A series dominated by the team to the east, the Golden Eagles do own a victory over the Volunteers, defeating UT on its own floor back in 1996. The Golden Eagles triumphed by double-digits in the contest, winning by a decisive 73-62 final score.
These two teams played nearly half of this series before 1950, meeting 10 times prior to halfway mark of the century. It took over 35 years for the series to return to the hardwood as the two squads met in Cookeville for the first and only time in 1985 in the first round of the NIT. Since then, these two in-state foes have squared off 10 more times, sporadically throughout the years.
The last contest between Tech and Tennessee came back in 2006 when the Volunteers, led by former head coach Bruce Pearl in his second year, made a run to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. The No. 21 ranked Vols won the game 101-77 behind a dominating shooting performance (50 percent from the field).
The Golden Eagles still managed to put three players in double figures in the contest. Belton Rivers led Tech with 20 points, including connecting on all seven free throw attempts. Also contributing on offense were Francis Kabore and Anthony Fisher. Kabore went 7-of-9 from the field to a tune of 14 points. Fisher added 16 points while going a perfect 6-for-6 from the charity stripe.
JaJuan Smith of the Vols led all scorers, dropping 23 points in the game. Duke Crews recorded a double with 10 points and 10 rebounds, as did Ryan Childress, who scored 13 points while collecting 11 boards.
Something will have to give on the boards in this contest as both squads enter the game with strong skill in crashing the boards. Tennessee pulls down an average of 38.9 rebounds per game, just edging the Golden Eagles who grab 38.5 boards per contest.
Leading the Tech squad in that impressive effort on the glass is JUCO transfer Dwan Caldwell. The junior big man is pulling down 7.6 rebounds per game and coming off a career performance on the boards, grabbing 13 at Lipscomb, including a staggering seven on offense. He also ranks second on the team in scoring with 10.8 points per game.
Senior Class Award candidate Dennis Ogbe has also been big on the glass for the Golden Eagles, pulling in 6.3 rebounds per contest. He is third on the team with 9.3 points per game and second in field goal percentage with a mark of .643.
Two more JUCO transfers have made an instant impact this season. Junior guard Ty Allen leads the team in scoring, putting up 11.7 points per game. Forward Ladon Carter leads the team in blocks with 14 and steals with 19 while averaging 9.2 points and 4.5 rebounds per game.
Senior point guard Jeremiah Samarrippas has averaged 8.0 points per contest this season, leading the team with 15 made 3-pointers and with 40 assists.
Redshirt sophomore Josiah Moore comes off a 12-point performance against Lipscomb, upping his scoring average to 7.3 points while also upping his rebounding mark to 3.8 per game.
For the Vols, senior guard Jordan McRae leads the way, averaging an impressive 19.1 points per game while shooting 46 percent from the field. Junior forward Jarnell Stokes paces UT on the glass, averaging 9.6 boards while adding 14.3 points per game.