By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information Coordinator
JACKSONVILLE, Ala. – It's crunch time for the Tennessee Tech men's basketball team as the Golden Eagles head south for an Ohio Valley Conference East Division showdown with Jacksonville State Saturday morning.
With big OVC tournament implications, the tension between the two rivals for the contest is only intensified. And what better way to capture that intensity than with a TV production? Comcast Sports Southeast will broadcast the game live and for those fans who can't access it that way, the game will still be streamed live on the OVC Digital Network.
Tech and Jacksonville State have had very different results as of late. In their last contest, the Golden Eagles upset the OVC-leading Belmont Bruins in Cookeville. The Gamecocks, on the other hand, dropped a road contest to Morehead State, falling a half game back of the Golden Eagles.
Tennessee Tech (11-13, 4-5) at Jacksonville State (10-15, 4-6)
Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014
11 a.m. CT
Pete Mathews Coliseum (5,500) – Jacksonville, Ala.
TV: Comcast Sports Southeast (Bob Belvin and Eric Foister)
Radio: 106.1 The Eagle (Roger Ealey)
Webcast: OVC Digital Network
SETTING THE STAGE
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 15-10 advantage overall, including a 7-4 mark at home since 1997. Also since that time, the Gamecocks lead the Golden Eagles in Jacksonville, winning six of the 11 contests held there.
The Gamecocks won last season's edition of the rivalry in Jacksonville, thumping the Tech squad 83-62 and tying its record for largest margin of victory over the Golden Eagles. Tech grabbed revenge later in the year, handing the Gamecocks a 78-64 loss in the Eblen Center.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET
Locked in a tight contest throughout the first half and early second, Tennessee Tech rallied midway in the second period to gain a 16-point lead, and the Golden Eagles held on to claim a 78-64 Ohio Valley Conference victory Saturday night over Jacksonville State in Eblen Center.
Senior Jud Dillard went 14-for-14 at the free throw line and scored 18 points while nabbing 10 rebounds for his ninth double-double of the season. Junior Dennis Ogbe also notched 18 points along with grabbing six boards as the Golden Eagles owned a 36-19 advantage on the glass.
Junior point guard Jeremiah Samarrippas added 15 points and four steals, and Javon McKay also reached double figures with 10 points, his highest output since the season opener.
Junior Brian Williams led the Gamecocks with 22 points and four assists, while senior Tarvin Gaines added 15, senior Ronnie Boggs scored nine and grabbed six rebounds, and senior Rinaldo Mafra added eight.
Tech's homecourt win avenged a 21-point loss at Jacksonville in December. The Golden Eagles improved to 9-14 overall and 3-8 within the OVC as they fight for a playoff spot in the March 6-9 Tournament field.
Jacksonville State's record slipped to 15-8 overall and 7-5 in the league.
The largest lead of the first half was a five-point Golden Eagle advantage, 7-2 very early on the contest. Tech was able to go up by four on two other occasions, but for much of the period the two teams were within a single basket. At the break, Tech was up by one, 25-24.
In the second half, Tech's 16-point margin was trimmed to 10 points with six minutes to play when JSU head coach James Green was charged with two technical fouls and ejected while arguing a call on an aggressive foul under the Tech basket. JSU players were charged with a personal and a technical on the play that led to Green's ejection.
The Golden Eagles made seven of eight free throws from the incident and rebuilt their lead to 17.
A dunk by McKay made it a 19-point bulge, Tech's largest lead of the contest, with 5:36 to play before the Gamecocks tried to mount a comeback. They pulled within eight, 66-58, with 1:44 to play on a 3-pointer by Williams but Tech was able to answer down the stretch by hitting 12-for-14 at the charity line.
The real difference in the game came midway in the second half when Tech went from a 33-30 lead to a 45-30 advantage with a 12-0 run. Six different players contributed points in the run, capped by a layup from Jud Dillard with 11:04 to play.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Senior Dennis Ogbe ranks second on the Tech squad in scoring, averaging 9.8 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 leading Tech in scoring, averaging 10.2 points per game while grabbing 5.5 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 4.0 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 38.2 percent from beyond the arc while leading Tech with 12.0 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 7.9 per contest. He went off for a career-high 22 points in the upset victory over Belmont and another career-best eight rebounds.
JUCO transfer Jordan Johnson collected his ninth consecutive start of the season against Belmont. In nine OVC games he is shooting 39.5 percent from 3-point range.