COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Fresh off a momentum-gaining win at Jacksonville State Saturday morning, the Tennessee Tech men's basketball team returns home for arguably it most important week of action this season. With the Ohio Valley Conference tournament just weeks away, the Golden Eagles will play host to two huge division rivals, beginning with Eastern Kentucky.
Tech hosts EKU in Thursday night action, welcoming the visiting Colonels for a match-up that could go a long way in determining seeding for the conference tournament. Eastern Kentucky enters the contest 7-4 in league play, coming off a tough home loss to arch rival Morehead State, which will also make the trip to Cookeville this weekend.
The Golden Eagles collected an impressive 12-point win in Jacksonville, Ala., keeping the Gamecocks at bay for most of the contest while building as much as a 19-point lead in the second half. Tech will look to keep its impressive play trending upward after winning each of its past two games in arguably decisive fashion.
TV: WCTE (Buddy Pearson and Frank Harrell)
Radio: 106.1 The Eagle (Roger Ealey)
Webcast: OVC Digital Network
SETTING THE STAGE Dating back to 1951, this intra-state match-up has stood the test of time to become one of the longest standing rivalries in the Ohio Valley Conference.
The Colonels own a 70-56 advantage in the series, putting together a team-high nine-game winning streak in the late 70's. EKU also won the first six meetings between the two programs.
Tech answered with the longest game in program history, winning a five-overtime thriller over the Colonels in Cookeville in 1954. The Golden Eagles also own the longest winning streak in the series, collecting 10 straight victories from 1999 through 2003.
After winning four in-a-row in the series, the Golden Eagles saw an end to that streak last season as EKU grabbed both contests for the first time since 2010.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET
Eastern Kentucky used a 16-2 run early in the second half to convert a tight game into a comfortable victory Thursday night, as the Colonels rolled to a 69-54 Ohio Valley Conference victory over Tennessee Tech.
Marcus Lewis keyed the run as the Colonels went from a three-point, 28-25 lead to a 17-point advantage, 44-27, with 14:20 remaining. EKU led by at least 14 points the balance of the game. EKU shot 70.8 percent (17-for-24) in the second half.
Corey Walden led EKU with 18 points, going 5-for-7 from the field including both his 3-point attempts, and 6-for-6 at the free throw line. He also grabbed six steals. Glenn Cosey added 14 points while Lewis finished with 10. Mike DiNunno had nine points and also managed six steals, helping to force 22 Golden Eagle turnovers.
Senior Jud Dillard was the game's top scorer with 21 points and also had eight rebounds. Lanerryl Johnson finished with 14 points while Javon McKay added seven points and a game-high nine rebounds.
The Colonels (23-7/12-3 OVC) came into the contest following a 22-point loss to Valparaiso Saturday in a BracketBuster game, but the non-conference setback didn't slow EKU. Before that loss, the Colonels had strung together a six-game winning streak and now have won seven of their last eight.
Tech (11-17/4-11 OVC) had won four straight at home before Thursday's loss.
The Golden Eagles came back from a deep hole in the first half, and pulled to within two points at the intermission, 25-23. Tech had 11 turnovers in the opening 20 minutes, and EKU took advantage by posting an 11-2 advantage in points off turnovers.
The Colonels surged to a 10-point lead midway through the first half, 17-7, using a 9-0 run including 3-pointers by Jeff Johnson and Timmy Knipp.
Jud Dillard scored three consecutive baskets to spark Tech's comeback, and Javon McKay's thundering slam dunk made it a four-point difference, 23-19, with 2:05 to play.
Glenn Cosey fed Knipp for a dunk that gave EKU a 25-19 lead, before Tech scored the final two baskets of the half, another dunk form McKay and a jumper by Lanerryl Johnson.
After the second half run had put Tech in another deep hole, the Golden Eagles couldn't find a combination for another comeback, with foul trouble and more turnovers providing the major obstacles. That and EKU's 70 percent shooting effort.
EKU finished with a 27-7 margin in points off turnovers, while Tech had a 34-20 advantage in rebounds.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Senior Dennis Ogbe ranks second on the Tech squad in scoring, averaging 10.0 point per contest. He also leads the Golden Eagles in rebounds, pulling down 6.0 per game.
Junior Dwan Caldwell has played a key role as the big man in the paint for the Golden Eagles. He is leading Tech in scoring, averaging 10.2 points per game while grabbing 5.4 boards per contest. He also blocks 1.0 shots per game.
Point guard Jeremiah Samarrippas is the lead dog in assists for the Golden Eagles, averaging 4.1 per game while also leading the way with 42 steals. He tacks on 9.5 points per game as well. In OVC play, he is shooting 37.3 percent from beyond the arc while leading Tech with 11.7 points and 4.7 assists per game.
Redshirt sophomore Josiah Moore is one of six Golden Eagles averaging at least seven points this season, scoring 7.8 per contest. He went off for a career-high 22 points in the upset victory over Belmont and as well as adding a career-best eight rebounds.
Ladon Carter provides great depth off the bench for Tech, ranking third in the OVC in field goal percentage with a .636 mark while scoring 7.5 points per game and pulling down 5.4 rebounds.
JUCO transfer Jordan Johnson collected his tenth consecutive start of the season at Jacksonville State. In 10 OVC games he is shooting 40.0 percent from 3-point range.
DeOndre Haynes has added a huge spark each of the past two games, coming off the bench in crucial points of both contests. The redshirt freshman guard is averaging 7.0 points over that span, while also dishing out three assists, making four steals, and pulling down five rebounds.