By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech men's basketball team concludes its non-conference schedule with a trip north to the legendary Assembly Hall to take on the University of Indiana at 7 p.m. CT Thursday, Dec. 21.
Tennessee Tech (8-4) at Indiana (6-6)
Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017
7:00 p.m. CT
Assembly Hall (17,222) – Bloomington, Ind.
TV: Big Ten Network (Cory Provus & Andy Katz)
Radio: 106.1 The Eagle (Dylan Vazzano)
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 Big 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.
Tech (8-4) 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.
After receiving 25 points of scoring from its bench, the Golden Eagles are now a perfect 6-0 on the year when the bench scores at least 24 points.
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.
The Golden Eagles are attempting 26.6 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.
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.
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.
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 20th on the all-time scoring list with 1,206 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 36 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 32 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: MOREHEAD STATE
The Golden Eagles kick off Ohio Valley Conference play and new 18-game format in the league with a 7:30 p.m. CT contest against Morehead State Thursday, Dec. 28.
Morehead State is in its second season under the direction of head coach Preston Spradlin.
MSU once again leads the entire OVC in rebounding as the Eagles average 39.9 boards per game. In the last four games, the Eagles averaged 46.7 rebounds per outing with two 50+ efforts.
The Morehead State men have either led the Ohio Valley Conference or ranked second in rebounding margin now in 11 consecutive seasons, and that trend is holding true again this season after the Eagles outboarded Alice Lloyd 62-18 and KCU 50-27. They are currently second in the conference and 32nd nationally at plus-7.2.
Morehead State is also leading the OVC in off ensive rebounds and ranks 18th in the nation in offensive boards at 13.6 per outing. The Eagles have recorded double-digit offensive rebounds in all but one game (and that was a nine-rebound day at Central Arkansas).
Morehead State is averaging 4.3 blocked shots per outing, and that ranks second among all OVC schools so far in 2017-18. The Eagles have notched six or more blocks four times.
Since 2008-09, Morehead State has had five 20-win campaigns and made five postseason appearances (2 NCAA, 3 CBI). The Eagles advanced to the championship series of the CBI in 2015-16, taking Nevada to the final game of the three-game set before falling.
This will mark the 149th meeting between the two programs all-time, with Morehead State owning an 83-65 series lead.
The series marks the second-longest in Tech history, with the Golden Eagles' rivalry with Murray State the only one with more contests (180).
Morehead State has won six of the past seven contests, with the two sides splitting their match-ups in 2017-18.
Tech won in Cookeville on Jan. 26, 76-73. The Eagles edged TTU in Morehead on Feb. 23, 73-68.
The Golden Eagles currently rank second in the OVC in scoring, averaging 81.5 points per game. The last time a Tech squad eclipsed the 80-point mark against MSU was a 91-84 victory in Morehead, Mar. 1, 2014.
Jugovic torched the nets in Cookeville last season in the series, scoring 25 points with five triples and a perfect 8-for-8 showing at the stripe.
Photo by Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information