By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech men's basketball team is back in the Eblen Center for a two-game home stand, starting with a 6:00 p.m. CT contest against Warren Wilson College on Thursday. The Golden Eagles will then host Hiwassee College on Sunday, Dec. 9 at 2:00 p.m.
Tennessee Tech (1-7) vs. Warren Wilson College (4-7)
Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018
6:00 p.m. CT
Eblen Center (7,500) – Cookeville, Tenn.
This marks the first-ever meeting between Tennessee Tech and Warren Wilson College.
The Golden Eagles and Owls share not one, but two common opponents this season.
The Owls kicked off their season against Tech's next opponent, going on the road and defeating Hiwassee College 92-87. The Golden Eagles will face Hiwassee on Sunday, Dec. 9 at 2:00 p.m. CT.
Warren Wilson also took a visit to Winthrop on Nov. 24, falling to the Eagles 116-76. Tech dropped a home tilt with Winthrop just four days later by a final score of 82-70.
TECH VERSUS NORTH CAROLINA
The Golden Eagles are 14-18 all-time against current Division I competition from the state of North Carolina, including a 10-4 mark at home.
Tech has taken on 10 of the 18 different Division I schools from North Carolina. The Golden Eagles have never faced Campbell, Davidson, Duke, Elon, North Carolina A&T, N.C. Central, UNCG or Wake Forest.
TTU has turned in a 5-2 mark against Western Carolina, its best record against any team from North Carolina. Tech also boasts multiple wins against Appalachian State and UNC Asheville.
Freshman point guard Jr. Clay turned in his second straight strong outing for the Golden Eagles, leading the team in scoring, rebounding, 3-pointers, assists and steals against Chattanooga. Playing in his hometown, he scored 15 points with seven rebounds, two assists and three steals.
Coupled with his 20-point, nine-rebound effort against Winthrop earlier in the week, Clay took home his first career Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Week honors after averaging 17.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists in two games.
Against the Mocs, freshman Garrett Golday earned his first career start and made it count. The rookie forward finished with a season-high 10 points on 4-for-6 shooting in 19 minutes of action.
The 2018-19 schedule proves as one of the most daunting for the Golden Eagles in program history. Preseason rankings placed it as the first season in team history where the Golden Eagles faced three preseason top-10 teams. (No. 6 Tennessee, No. 8 North Carolina and No. 10 Michigan State).
Tech has faced three different top-15 teams just once in school history, back in 1993-94. Then head coach Frank Harrell's squad took on No. 1 Kentucky, No. 12 Indiana and No. 14 UConn throughout the season.
Tech was predicted to finish fifth overall in the 2019 OVC race in voting by the league's head coaches and SIDs.
The 2018-19 Tech roster features 17 players (13 scholarship student-athletes) representing five states.
Ten Golden Eagle players hail from the state Tennessee, while Georgia boasts a total of three Tech players. Florida represents home to two Golden Eagles while both Alabama and Illinois are represented by one Tech player each.
Tech has two graduate students, two seniors, four juniors, one sophomore, one redshirt freshman and seven true freshmen.
Ten Golden Eagles stand 6-foot-5 or taller while the other seven measure in at 6-foot-4 or shorter.
A whopping 11 members are new to the Tech squad for 2018-19, including Spencer Chandler, Jr. Clay, Garrett Golday, Malik Martin, Chris McNeal, Caden Mills, Chase Ridenour, Jared Sherfield, Tyler Thompson, Johnnie Vassar and Reece Wilkinson.
WINDS OF CHANGE
Last year, the Golden Eagles returned 71.0 percent of their scoring. This season, things look a little different for the purple and gold. Just 19.4 percent of Tech's points will return in 2018-19.
In 2017-18, seven of TTU's top eight scorers returned to help lead the team to 19 wins. This season, the Golden Eagles have lost their top five scorers from last year, all of which averaged double figures.
Senior Courtney Alexander II represents the top returner at 6.8 points per game.
Tech represents the only OVC team in the league not returning at least one of its top five scorers from a season ago.
Alexander also marks the only returning starter from 2017-18, making 32 starts in 33 games. He led the team in both rebounds and blocks last season.
Tennessee State is the only other team in the OVC returning just one starter from last season. The team also hired a new head coach in the offseason.
Tech's five returning players who saw action in 2017-18 ranks the Golden Eagles as the second-lowest in the league behind Southeast Missouri's four. Belmont also returns just five players from last year.
Overall, the Golden Eagles return just 27.1 percent of their total minutes played from 2017-18, the 12th lowest percentage in the nation. Of Tech's opponents in 2018-19, only Chattanooga returns less (15.2 percent).
Photo by Thomas Corhern