By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information Coordinator
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – After a win over UT Martin Thursday evening, the Tennessee Tech men's basketball team (14-14, 7-6) controls its own destiny as far as making the Ohio Valley Conference tournament goes. It's simple. Keep winning and it doesn't matter what any other team does.
And that's just what head coach Steve Payne's squad will focus on doing, beginning with East Division foe Jacksonville State (10-19, 4-10). Tech will set its sights on the Gamecocks in a 7 p.m. start that is sure to be full of emotion as the the Golden Eagle team honors four members as a part of Senior Day.
The Golden Eagles took care of business against the Gamecocks on the road earlier this season, defeating Jacksonville State by 12 points on the road. Jax State is coming off a tough 86-70 road loss to Southeast Missouri, all but eliminating the Gamecocks from a post season berth.
Tennessee Tech (14-14, 7-6) vs. Jacksonville State (10-19, 4-10)
Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014
7 p.m. CT
Eblen Center (9,280) – Cookeville, Tenn.
Radio: 106.1 The Eagle (Roger Ealey)
Webcast: Golden Eagles Sports Network on the OVC Digital Network (Dylan Vazzano)
A SENIOR SENDOFF
Saturday marks the final time that four current Golden Eagles take the court in the Eblen Center. Seniors Matt Marseille, Jeremiah Samarrippas, and Dennis Ogbe as well as junior Mitchell Hill will all be honored prior to Tech's final regular season home game in a Senior Day ceremony. Here's a quick glance at the players being honored:
Mitchell Hill: Straight out of Tennessee Tech's backyard, this Cookeville native has played in over 40 games over the past three seasons. After redshirting his freshman season, he saw limited action as a sophomore before breaking out to provide great depth on last year's Golden Eagle team. He appeared in all 29 contests in 2012-13, shooting nearly 40 percent from behind the 3-point arc. The all-time leading scorer in Cookeville High School history, this Golden Eagle has developed a fantastic basketball IQ in his time at Tech.
Matt Marseille: Not many student-athletes in country has shown as much heart and dedication as this next senior. After transferring from Centenary College in 2010, the Brooklyn native suffered a season-ending knee injury that forced him to sit out the 2011-12 season. He has battled injuries and surgeries over the length of his Golden Eagle career, but has still managed to hit the floor in 70 contests, amassing close to 300 points and 200 rebounds in a limited role. More importantly, this senior has grown to be one of Tech's most vocal leaders both on and off the court. Escorted today by ……
Jeremiah Samarrippas: In just two short seasons, this senior has left his mark on the Tennessee Tech program, amassing 550 points, and nearly 250 assists and 100 steals while starting 55 of 57 games. After transferring from SMU in 2012, the point guard earned a starting role and has since provided a key element to the Golden Eagles squad. The Bartow, Fla. native dished out 123 assists and made 51 steals while averaging 9.5 points and 1.7 rebounds as a junior on his way to receiving a nod on the OVC All-Newcomer team. This season, he has racked up over 120 assists and nearly 50 steals while leading the Tech squad at the charity stripe, knocking down almost 90 percent of his free throw attempts.
Dennis Ogbe: In four years as a Golden Eagle, this senior has established a reputation as a tireless worker both on and off the court. Sporting a 3.91 GPA in electrical engineering, he has earned numerous academic accolades including earning a spot on this year's Capital One Academic All-America Division I Men's Basketball Team. He has been named Academic All-District twice in his career and was honored as a 2012-13 OVC Scholar Athlete earlier this year. The forward has been name to the Athletic Director's Honor Roll all seven semesters of his time at Tech, has landed on the OVC Commissioner's Academic Honor Roll each of the past three years, and has earned the OVC Medal of Honor twice. Named a Senior Class Award candidate before the 2013-14 season, this Munich, Germany native currently leads the Golden Eagles in both scoring and rebounding this season, averaging over 10 points and nearly six rebounds per game. In his career, he has scored over 800 points and pulled down 425 rebounds. His current career field goal percentage of 61.2 percent ranks second on Tech's all-time list and his 61 career blocks has him tied for 10th in Tech history. With tonight's game, he will move into a tie for ninth all-time in games played as a Golden Eagle with 119 appearances.
SETTING THE STAGE
The Golden Eagles will look to make it three in-a-row against Jacksonville State, hosting the Gamecocks in the final home game of the season.
One of the newer rivalries for the Golden Eagles, the series against Jacksonville State has been a roller coaster ride with neither team winning more than four games in a row.
Tech owns the 16-10 advantage overall, including a 7-4 mark at home since 1997. When traveling south, however, the series is split with both teams winning six contests in Jacksonville.
Tech won the last meeting between these two squads, handling the Gamecocks in Jacksonville by a score of 72-60.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET
Just one week after upsetting the top team in the Ohio Valley Conference behind arguably its most complete game of the season, the Tennessee Tech men's basketball team (12-13, 5-5) put together another contest that could bear the same title, using an all-around group effort to knock off East Division foe Jacksonville State (10-16, 4-7) on the road Saturday morning, 72-60.
Four Golden Eagles scored in double figures and five more contributed offensively to the 12-point victory over the Gamecocks. Leading the way for Tech was senior Dennis Ogbe, who put up 15 points and eight rebounds. Ladon Carter enjoyed a great game across the board, scoring 12 points, pulling down eight boards, and blocking a career-high four shots.
Helping Ogbe and Carter dominate the post was junior big man Dwan Caldwell, who chipped in 11 points to give Tech an impressive 44-24 advantage in the paint.
The Gamecocks opened the game with a 3-pointer from the corner by Avery Moore, but the 3-0 lead would prove to be short lived as Tech used consistent play inside to grab a 35-28 lead heading into the half.
Tech extended that lead to as much as 19 points in the second half behind the brilliance of Alabama native DeOndre Haynes, who scored all 10 of his points in the second half. The redshirt freshman guard provided a noticeable spark off the bench for the second straight game, energizing the Golden Eagles on both sides of the ball.
Nearly half of the Gamecocks' 60 points came from the charity stripe as the Jacksonville State squad converted 26 of its 33 attempts. Sinking 10 of those free throws was Darion Rackley, who led JSU with 16 points. Also contributing to the Jax State offense were Brian Williams with 14 points, D.J. Felder with 13, and Avery Moore with 10.
Senior Jeremiah Samarrippas put together a solid night, scoring nine points while dishing out a game-high five assists. The Bartow, Fla. native sank a 3-pointer mid-way through the first half, giving him 13 consecutive contests with a made trey.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Senior Dennis Ogbe leads the Tech squad in scoring, averaging 10.5 point per contest. He also leads the Golden Eagles in rebounds, pulling down 5.9 per game.
Junior Dwan Caldwell has played a key role as the big man in the paint for the Golden Eagles. He is second on the team 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 4.4 per game while also leading the way with 45 steals. He tacks on 9.8 points per game as well. In OVC play, he is shooting 37.7 percent from beyond the arc while leading Tech with 11.8 points and 5.2 assists per game.
Redshirt sophomore Josiah Moore is one of six Golden Eagles averaging at least seven points this season, scoring 7.4 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 second in the OVC in field goal percentage with a .646 mark while scoring 7.5 points per game and pulling down 4.9 rebounds.
JUCO transfer Jordan Johnson has started every conference game this season, shooting 38.6 percent from 3-point range and averaging 7.0 points.