By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech men's basketball team heads back out on the road to continue a brutal road stretch that includes five-of-six games away from the Eblen Center. The Golden Eagles will take on longtime and in-state rival Austin Peay Thursday evening at 7:30 p.m. CT in Clarksville, Tenn.
Tennessee Tech (16-11, 8-6) at Austin Peay (15-11, 10-4)
Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018
7:30 p.m. CT
Dunn Center (7,257) – Clarksville, Tenn.
ABOUT AUSTIN PEAY
Austin Peay is in its first season under the direction of head coach Matt Figger.
Austin Peay claimed its 10th OVC win of the 2017-18 campaign at Eastern Illinois last Saturday, the most OVC victories by a Govs squad since the 2010-11 season.
The Gov's defensive improvement (-13.0 ppg) from 2016-17 to 2017-18 is ranked second nationally only behind Central Michigan's (-16.0 ppg). APSU permitted 83.8 ppg a year ago and only 70.8 ppg this season.
In 14 OVC contests, the Taylor-Ugba pairing has boosted its rebounding averages; Ugba leads the league at 9.1 rpg, while Taylor's 8.9 rpg ranks second against league opponents.
Taylor and Ugba are one of five teammate tandems in the nation both averaging 7.9 or more rebounds per game. For reference, the Ivy League and Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference have no players currently averaging more than eight boards a night.
Taylor (4.04) and Ugba (2.88) rank seventh and 56th in the nation in offensive rebounds per game, joining Duke duo Marvin Bagley III (4.04) and Wendell Carter Jr. (3.12) as the only pair of teammates averaging a combined 6.9 offensive rebounds or more per contest.
With 30 points against Evansville, Taylor became the first Austin Peay freshman since APSU Athletics Hall of Famer Nick Stapleton (Feb. 13, 1999) to score 30 or more in a single game as a frosh.
With 10 double-doubles, Taylor is tied for seventh among the nation's freshmen, alongside Wright State's Loudon Love His 4.04 offensive rebounds per game is seventh in Division I, second among all freshmen behind only Bagley from Duke.
Research pegs freshman Terry Taylor (15.6 ppg, 8.3 rpg) as one of three freshmen in the nation leading his team in scoring and rebounding, alongside Duke's Marvin Bagley III and UNLV's Brandon McCoy's.
This will mark the 143rd meeting between the two programs all-time, with Tech owning a 72-69 advantage.
This will mark the second of two regular-season match-ups between the two in-state rivals, the first time the two have met twice in the same regular season since 2010-11 campaign.
The Golden Eagles will look for its 11th victory in the past 15 meetings between the two programs.
The last contest between the two rivals marked the 141st in school history, breaking a tie with Middle Tennessee for most games played against an in-state opponent by the Golden Eagles.
Tech won the contest, 86-74, behind a monster showing at the charity stripe, hitting 28-of-37 tries from the line in a game that featured 52 total fouls.
Curtis Phillips Jr. led all scorers in the game with 26 points on a highly efficient 8-for-12 shooting and 7-for-8 performance at the line. Aleksa Jugovic managed 22 points while hitting all 10 of his attempts at the stripe.
The Golden Eagles have won four of the past five contests in Clarksville.
Tech (16-11) 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.
The Golden Eagles showed off the kind of ball movement that ranked them first in the OVC against Morehead State. Tech's 24 assists on 28 field goals (85.7 percent) broke the school record for percentage of assists to field goals made in a single game set earlier this season against Boyce College (34-on-41 for 82.9 percent). Tech added 19 more assists on just 24 field goal attempts (79.2 percent) against Eastern Kentucky.
Despite its 75-70 loss against Belmont, Tech still sits an impressive 10-3 in games decided by single digits in 2017-18, proving the veteran presence of the Golden Eagle lineup is paying off.
After receiving 22 points of scoring from its bench against Southeast Missouri, the Golden Eagles are now 9-2 on the year when the bench scores at least 21 points. The two losses? A five-point defeat at a one-loss Central Michigan squad and the team's loss at Indiana.
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 24.0 free throw attempts at home in 12 games this season as opposed to just 18.5 attempts at the line in 13 contests on the road. In the team's two neutral site match-ups, Tech attempted 20.5 free throws per game.
With wins over Omaha and Maryland Eastern Shore to take the Emerald Coast Classic title, Tech won its first early season tournament since claiming 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.
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 70.5 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 games, including 15 for the women and 14 for the men.
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.
Photo by Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information