By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech men's basketball team wraps up its 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.
Tennessee Tech (7-3) at Central Michigan (7-1)
Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017
12:00 p.m. CT
McGuirk Arena (5,300) – Mount Pleasant, Mich.
ABOUT CENTRAL MICHIGAN
Central Michigan is in its sixth season under the direction of head coach Keno Davis.
The Chippewas are riding a six-game winning streak, after defeating Montana State in a nonconference contest on Tuesday.
CMU is 4-0 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 and Montana State, 75-48, on Tuesday.
Senior forward Luke Meyer ranks No. 1 in the MAC in 3-point field goal percentage (.563).
Central Michigan is ranked No. 2 in the nation in free throw percentage (.816).
Central Michigan is also ranked No. 15 in the NCAA in personal fouls per game (15.1) and No. 25 fewest fouls (121).
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. 10 (60.5 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.
Tech (7-3) 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.
Thanks to a cold shooting day at Furman, the Golden Eagles were held to under 20 points in a half for the first time since their contest at Alabama in 2014. Tech scored just 19 points in the first half of each game.
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 PICKED 5TH IN OVC
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 1,734 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 40 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 28 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.
THE TRANSFER EFFECT
Three members of the 2017-18 roster are Division I transfers while a fourth is a Division II transfer. Graduate student Kajon Mack and senior Curtis Phillips Jr. both made their debut last season with much success. Graduate transfer Shaq Calhoun and Division II transfer Corey Tillery are both immediately eligible for the 2017-18 season and expected to contribute right away.
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
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: CHATTANOOGA
The Golden Eagles return to the Eblen Center for a 2 p.m. CT in-state match-up with Chattanooga on Sunday, Dec. 17.
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.
This will mark 59th 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.
Photo by Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information