By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech men's basketball team continues its three-game road swing and stretch of six-of-seven games away from Cookeville, visiting Dayton on Wednesday, Dec. 6 for a 6:00 p.m. CT tilt.
Tennessee Tech (7-2) at Dayton (3-4)
Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017
6:00 p.m. CT
UD Arena (13,455) – Dayton, Ohio
TV: Spectrum Sports (Dwight Burgess & Tony White)
Radio: 106.1 The Eagle (Dylan Vazzano)
Dayton is in its first season under the direction of head coach Anthony Grant. Last season's head coach, Archie Miller, left to take over as the head man at Indiana after six seasons with the Flyers. Tech will play at Indiana on Thursday, Dec. 21.
Tech head coach Steve Payne and Dayton head man Anthony Grant have faced off once before when Grant was the head coach at Alabama. The Crimson Tide defeated the Golden Eagles, 65-53 back on Dec. 13, 2014 in Tuscaloosa.
Dayton returns the 11th-fewest number of minutes played in Division I (2,020). Only Mississippi Valley State (386), Pitt (648), North Carolina Central (862), Kentucky (890), Austin Peay (1,392), Robert Morris (1,612), Iowa State (1,728), Memphis (1,825), James Madison (1,881) and Chattanooga (1,909) have fewer.
Josh Cunningham leads the Atlantic 10 in rebounding (10.0 rpg) and has reached double figures in points four of the last five contests.
Cunningham in the last five games averaged 14.6 points, 12.2 rebounds and shooting .630 (29 of 46) from the field.
Darrell Davis has scored in double figures in every game this season.
Davis' 19.3 scoring average is fourth in the Atlantic 10 and 14.2 points higher than last year.
Kostas Antetokounmpo has a team-best 12 blocks, the best start in school history through six games.
Jalen Crutcher scored 18 points at Mississippi State in his first career start. He is averaging 16.5 points in the past two contests.
In Dayton victories Xeyrius Williams is averaging 10.0 points with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.67. In the losses, Williams' averages drop to 7.0 points and 1.5 assist-to-turnover ratio. He has missed the last three games with back spasms.
Dayton is one of 19 schools to have made the last four NCAA Tournaments.
This will mark the third meeting between the two programs all-time, with the series tied at one win apiece.
The Golden Eagles won the inaugural meeting between the two teams, a 68-69 victory on Mar. 15, 2002 in Dayton as part of the first round of the NIT.
Tech would go on to quarterfinals of the NIT that season, eventually falling to the John Calipari-led Memphis squad.
The Flyers took the second match-up, defeating the Golden Eagles in Dayton, 81-60, Nov. 18, 2005.
TECH VERSUS THE A-10
Tech is 5-4 all-time against the membership of the Atlantic 10 Conference.
The Golden Eagles have faced exactly half of the A-10's current membership of 14 teams, inlcuding Dayton (1-1), Duquesne (0-1), La Salle (0-1), UMass (1-0), Richmond (2-0), St. Bonaventure (0-1) and VCU (1-0).
Tech owns a .500 record or better against four of the seven A-10 teams it has faced.
The Golden Eagles have never faced off against Davidson, Fordham, George Mason, George Washington, Rhode Island, Saint Joseph's or Saint Louis.
Tech (7-2) 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 just 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.
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 23rd on the all-time scoring list with 1,164 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 43 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 25 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: CENTRAL MICHIGAN
The Golden Eagles wrap up their three-game road swing and stretch of six-of-seven games away from Cookeville, with a trip to Mount Pleasant, Mich. and match-up with Central Michigan Saturday, Dec. 9.
Central Michigan is in its sixth season under the direction of head coach Keno Davis.
Riding a five-game winning streak, Central Michigan (6-1) will host Montana State (6-3) in a nonconference contest on Tuesday, Dec. 5 at 7 p.m. in McGuirk Arena.
CMU is 3-0 at home this season after wins over Siena Heights, 108-48, in McGuirk Arena on Nov. 10, Eureka College, 103-68, Nov. 18 and Jackson State, 70-63, on Dec. 1.
Senior forward Luke Meyer ranks No. 1 in the MAC in 3-point field goal percentage (.563).
Central Michigan is ranked No. 3 in the nation in free throw percentage (.813).
Central Michigan is also ranked No. 10 in the NCAA in personal fouls per game (14.6) and No. 17 fewest fouls (102).
A year ago, CMU finished ranked 345th in the nation in scoring defense (87.7 ppg). Through seven games this season, the Chippewas are ranked No. 24 (62.3 ppg).
Central Michigan became the first and only Mid-American Conference team to ever win a Great Alaska Shootout title in the 40th and final edition of the historic early-season tournament.
Junior guard Shawn Roundtree was named Most Outstanding Player of the Great Alaska Shootout while Luke Meyer and Cecil Williams were named to the all-tournament team.
Roundtree was also named MAC West Player of the Week (11/27) for his standout performance at the Great Alaska Shootout.
With CMU's win, Keno Davis and his father, Tom, became the first father-son head coaching pair to win Great Alaska Shootout titles. Tom won in 1986 with Iowa.
This will mark just the second meeting between the two programs all-time, with Central Michigan owning a 1-0 series lead.
The Chippewas won the inaugural meeting between the two teams last season, an 86-74 victory in Cookeville that provided only Tech's second home-opening loss in the history of the Eblen Center.
Marcus Keene led all scorers with 30 points in the contest, while Aleksa Jugovic led Tech with 25 points.
TECH VERSUS THE MAC
Tech is 17-20 all-time against the membership of the Mid-American Conference.
The Golden Eagles have faced nine of the MAC's current 12 teams, needing to only face Bowling Green, Buffalo and Kent State for the first time.
Tech's best mark against MAC foes is a 4-0 showing against Eastern Michigan. TTU has faced off against Akron, a former OVC member, a whopping 17 times, totaling an 8-9 mark.
TTU is 5-3 all-time against the three MAC teams from Michigan.
Photo by Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information