By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech men's basketball team returns to the Eblen Center for a 2:00 p.m. CT in-state match-up with Chattanooga on Sunday, Dec. 17.
Tennessee Tech (7-4) vs. Chattanooga (5-5)
Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017
2:00 p.m. CT
Eblen Center (7,500) – Cookeville, Tenn.
Chattanooga is in its first season under the direction of head coach Lamont Paris.
The Mocs are one of two teams in the country (Texas State) with zero players possessing more than one year in the program.
Chattanooga entered the 2017-18 season with the youngest team in the country, with an average age of 19.31 years old, ahead of Kentucky (19.43).
UTC is one of seven schools to open the year without a senior on the roster: American, The Citadel, Holy Cross, Kentucky, Robert Morris & Siena.
The Mocs also are one of just 16 Division I programs returning five or fewer letter winners from 2016-17 (just five come back).
Chattanooga entered the year with the third-least total career starts on its roster, just 12, trailing only Pitt and North Carolina Central.
The Mocs own a +28 rebound margin over their last three games. The squad was -36 against the first five DI opponents it faced to start the season.
This will mark the 59th meeting between the two programs all-time, with Tech owning a commanding, 41-17 series lead.
The Golden Eagles won the inaugural meeting between the two in-state rivals in 1938-39, a 34-32 victory in Chattanooga.
UTC won the most recent meeting, an 80-69 victory on Dec. 15, 2015 in Chattanooga.
Tech owns two, separate 10-game win streaks in the all-time series, with just a single loss in 1962-63 separating the two streaks.
In Cookeville, the Golden Eagles have been nearly unbeatable in the series, boasting a 27-5 advantage. Tech also leads the series in Chattanooga, but at a much narrower 13-12 advantage.
Tech has won the past three meetings in the Eblen Center, with two decided by five points or less.
TECH VERSUS THE SOCON
Tech is 144-70 all-time against the membership of the Southern Conference.
The Golden Eagles have faced all but three of current SoCon programs, with UNCG, Wofford and VMI representing the only teams not to have squared off against Tech.
Tech owns a .500 record or better against six of the seven SoCon teams it has faced.
TTU is 41-17 all-time against in-state rival Chattanooga and 37-37 when facing another in-state foe, East Tennessee State.
Tech is 8-6 against Samford, 5-2 versus Western Carolina, 2-0 while taking on The Citadel and 1-2 facing Furman.
Tech (7-4) is off to its best start since the 2015-16 season. The Golden Eagles finished 19-12 that season, including an 11-5 mark and second-place finish in the Ohio Valley Conference East Division. It also marked the program's most recent postseason berth, a bid into the Vegas16 Tournament.
With a 7-1 start to the season, the Golden Eagles completed their most successful month of November in program history. No Tech squad had won more than five games in November prior to this season.
Tech was held to just 14 free-throw attempts at Central Michigan, the third straight game the team was held under 20 attempts at the line since drawing 49 tries against Lipscomb.
The Golden Eagles are attempting 26.8 free throw attempts at home in four games this season as opposed to just 18.7 attempts at the line in seven contests away from the Eblen Center.
With wins over Omaha and Maryland Eastern Shore to take the Emerald Coast Classic tilte, Tech won its first early season tournament since claiming the the Las Vegas Classic back during the 2005-06 season.
Tech was predicted to finish fifth overall in the 2018 OVC race in voting by the league's head coaches and SIDs.
The 2017-18 Tech roster features 14 players (12 scholarship student-athletes) representing three states and five countries.
Five Golden Eagle players hail from the state Tennessee, while Georgia boasts a total of four Tech players. California represents home for one player.
Four Tech players were born outside the United States, all of which live in their native countries when not in Cookeville; Aleksa Jugovic from Serbia, Stephaun Adams from the U.S. Virgin Islands, Joan Duran from the Dominican Republic and Domen Omladič from Slovenia.
Tech has two graduate students, three seniors, three juniors, three sophomores, and three true freshmen.
Seven Golden Eagles stand 6-foot-5 or taller while the other seven measure in at 6-foot-4 or shorter.
DON'T SELL EXPERIENCE SHORT
Tech boasts arguably the most experienced team in the OVC entering the 2017-18 season, returning a whopping 77.3 percent of its minutes played from just a season ago. That mark ranks first in the league by over 10 percent (Eastern Kentucky returns 66.6 percent).
The Golden Eagles also return 71 percent of its scoring from the 2016-17 squad, ranking only behind the Colonels' 75.7 percent. Only Tech, Eastern Kentucky and Murray State return both of their respective top-two scorers, with TTU's Aleksa Jugovic and Kajon Mack combining for 27.0 ppg, EKU's Nick Mayo and Asante Gist totaling 34.4 ppg and MSU's Jonathan Stark and Terrell Miller teaming up for 37.9 ppg.
Aside from the Golden Eagles, only Eastern Illinois and Eastern Kentucky return at least four of their top-five scorers from last season. Tech will return six of its top-seven scorers from the 2016-17 campaign.
40TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE HOOP
Originally opened back in 1977, the Hooper Eblen Center was named for former athlete, head coach and administrator Hooper Eblen, who served the university for 33 years and was instrumental in planning the football stadium and basketball arena. This season, "The Hoop" – or as it was once known, "The Temple of Doom" – will celebrate its 40th season since opening for the TTU Invitational Volleyball Tournament on Sept. 20, 1977.
The Tech men's team hosted the first basketball game in the Eblen Center, earning a 72-71 victory over in-state foe Vanderbilt on Nov. 26, 1977.
The Tech men have enjoyed a home court advantage since the opening of The Hoop, boasting a win percentage of 70.1 in the Eblen Center. From Dec. 2, 2000 to Jan. 4, 2003, did not lose a game in the facility, amassing 33 straight victories for the longest home win streak in program history.
During its 40th anniversary, The Hoop will play host to 29 total basketball games, including 15 for the women and 14 for the men.
GIVE ME SOME SUGAR
After averaging 5.8 points as a freshman and 12.1 points as a sophomore, senior guard Aleksa Jugovic continued his upward trend by averaging a team-high 15.2 points per game last season. The slick shooting Serb became the 36th member of the Golden Eagles' 1,000-point club last year and currently ranks 21st on the all-time scoring list with 1,185 points.
Fans can follow Jugovic on Twitter under his handle/nickname @Serbian_Sugar. The moniker, originally developed by current assistant coach and previous director of basketball operations Gus Fraley, was created to help acclimate the Serbia native to the fans of Golden Eagle basketball.
A deadly 3-point sniper, Jugovic needs just 38 triples to break former Golden Eagle Frank Davis' all-time program record of 251 made 3-pointers. The senior knocked down 71 treys as a sophomore and 82 more as a junior. He currently has 30 on the year.
Jugovic went bananas in The Pit at New Mexico, finishing 11-for-12 from the field and a perfect, school-record setting 7-for-7 from downtown on his way to a career-high 31 points.
Two Golden Eagle players can make the trip to Cookeville from their respective home towns in about 20 minutes, just outside of shouting distance.
Senior Mason Ramsey hails from nearby Livingston, Tenn., just 20 miles north of Cookeville.
Sophomore junior college transfer Cade Crosland calls Sparta, Tenn. home, a less-than 20-mile trip south of Cookeville.
IT STARTS WITH A PHILOSOPHY
The Golden Eagle basketball team owns a philosophy that does not change from year-to-year.
Share the ball and play hard.
Be great defensively.
Know how we win. We win with great defense and an inside-out offense.
We win with high basketball IQ and low turnover totals.
This year's class also brings a special kind of chemistry and different energy level than previous teams.
The players approach everything with a willingness to learn and eagerness to get started and better every day.
JOINING THE RANKS
The Golden Eagles made three additions for the 2018-19 season during the early signing period, all from the state Tennessee.
Joining Tech from Van Buren County High School will be scoring guard Caden Mills.
Already a 2,000-point scorer, Milles averaged 26.0 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game as a junior.
Mills led VBCHS to a 28-5 record and third straight appearance to the TSSAA state tournament last season.
Joining Tech from Arlington High School will be forward Garrett Golday.
The 6-foot-7 signee averaged a double-double as a junior, with 19 points and 10 rebounds per game. He also added five blocks per game.
Golday led AHS to a District 14-AAA regular season title and earned All-Metro and All-Region honors.
Joining Tech from McCallie High School will be point guard Jr. Clay.
Boasting great speed, Clay averaged 13.8 points, 4.0 assists and 2.5 steals per game while leading MHS to an appearance in the state championship game.
Clay was named a finalist for the TSSAA Division II-AA Mr. Basketball Award and took home multiple postseason honors.
UP NEXT: INDIANA
The Golden Eagles conclude their non-conference schedule with a trip north to take on the University of Indiana at 7 p.m. CT Thursday, Dec. 21.
Indiana is in its first season under the direction of head coach Archie Miller.
Miller is the 29th head coach in Indiana men's basketball history. He spent the previous six seasons as head coach at the University of Dayton, where he won Atlantic 10 Conference regular season championships in 2016 and 2017. He was Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year in 2017. He guided the Flyers to a 139-63 record (69.8) and a 68-34 mark (66.7) in the Atlantic 10. He took Dayton to the NCAA Tournament each of the last four years with the Flyers advancing to the Elite Eight in the 2014 Tournament. UD was nationally ranked in three of Miller's six seasons (2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16).
Since Assembly Hall was opened in November, 1971, Indiana has ranked in the top 10 in attendance in 39 of the last 46 seasons.
Robert Johnson is now in 47th place on the IU all-time scoring list with 1,092 points. Darryl Thomas is 46th with 1,095 and Bob Leonard is 45th with 1,098.
Collin Hartman is a player who has impacted winning during his career with the Hoosiers. Since the 2014-15 season, the Hoosiers are 49-23 when he is healthy. They are 21-20 when his is not. He is a career 40.1% shooter from three-point range and is coming off a 13-point, 5-rebound, 2 assist effort at home against Iowa.
This will mark the fourth meeting between the two programs all-time, with Indiana owning a 3-0 series lead.
The two sides first met in the Hoosiers' 1974-75 season opener in Bloomington, a 113-60 win by Indiana that started a 31-game win streak that did not end until the second round of the NCAA Tournament against Kentucky.
Indiana won the second meeting in December of 1983, 81-66 and then took the most recent meeting in 1993, a 117-73 victory in the Indiana Invitational.
TECH VERSUS THE BIG TEN
Tech is 2-17 all-time against the current membership of the Big Ten Conference.
Both of TTU's victories against Big Ten competition have come at the expense of Northwestern, with Tech boasting a 2-0 mark against the Wildcats.
Seven of Tech's 17 losses against the Bigt Ten have come against teams ranked in the AP Top 25 and four more eventually joining the Top 25 later in the season.
Included in those match-ups have been losses to the 1988-89 Illinois Final Four squad (lost to eventual champion Michigan), the 1998-99 Ohio State Final Four team (lost to eventual champ UConn), last season's Iowa team that fell in the second round of the NCAA Tournament to eventual champion Villanova and three Bobby Knight-coached Indiana squads that made the Sweet 16 or further each time.
Tech has faced off against 11 of the current 14 members of the Big Ten. Just Maryland, Michigan, and Purdue remain on TTU's Big Ten bucket list.
Of the Power Five conferences, Tech has played against more Big Ten opponents than any other league not named the SEC.
Photo by Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information