By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech men's basketball team will hit the road for an in-state battle Saturday afternoon, visiting rival Chattanooga for a 1:00 p.m. CT tilt in McKenzie Arena.
Tennessee Tech (1-6) at Chattanooga (3-5)
Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018
1:00 p.m. CT
McKenzie Arena (10,995) – Chattanooga, Tenn.
This will mark the 60th meeting between the two programs all-time, with Tech owning a commanding, 42-17 series lead.
The Golden Eagles won the inaugural meeting between the two in-state rivals in 1938-39, a 34-32 victory in Chattanooga.
The purple and gold also won the most recent meeting, an 82-76 victory last season in Cookeville on Dec. 17, 2017.
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 28-5 advantage. UTC owns the advantage in Chattanooga, albeit by a narrow 11-9 difference.
The Mocs have won the past two meetings in Chattanooga, both games decided by double-digits.
In last year's match-up, Tech boasted four players in double figures, led by senior Aleksa Jugovic with 21 points on 7-for-8 shooting at the charity stripe. Micaiah Henry enjoyed one of the best games of his career at the time, hitting 6-of-8 shots from the floor for 14 points in just 15 minutes of action. Kajon Mack tallied 13 points and seven rebounds while Curtis Phillips Jr. added 12 points and seven boards.
For the Mocs, Makinde London led the way with 21 points while Nat Dixon tallied 19. James Lewis Jr. posted a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds while Makale Foreman also finished in double figures with 14 points.
TECH VERSUS THE SOCON
Tech is 145-70 all-time against the current membership of the Southern Conference, including a 23-46 mark on the road.
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 42-17 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.
TECH VERSUS TENNESSEE
The Golden Eagles are 391-308 all-time against current Division I competition from the state of Tennessee, including a 127-186 mark on the road.
Tech has taken on each of the other 11 schools from the Volunteer State, having faced each program at least 19 times.
The most contests against an in-state foe have come against Ohio Valley Conference rival Austin Peay, a whopping total of 143. Tech owns a 74-69 advantage in the series. Tech has also squared off with Middle Tennessee 140 times, owning an 81-59 record against the former OVC rival.
Chattanooga ranks fifth on the list in total number of match-ups among the state's programs, with Tech holding the 42-17 advantage in 59 meetings.
The Golden Eagles own a winning record against all but four Tennessee squads. Tech and East Tennessee State are currently in a stalemate in their series, a record of 37-37. The only three teams to boast a winning mark against Tech are Memphis, Tennessee and Vanderbilt.
Tech will still face five schools from Tennessee this season, including Tennessee and the four members of the OVC from the Volunteer State, Austin Peay, Belmont, Tennessee State and UT Martin.
TTU will square off against Tennessee on Dec. 29 in Knoxville in a 12:00 p.m. CT tilt, the team's fourth meeting against the Vols under the direction of head coach Steve Payne.
Freshman point guard Jr. Clay turned in a spectacular outing against Winthrop, leading the Golden Eagles in scoring with his first career 20-point performance. He finished the game 7-of-14 from the field while also hauling in a team-high and career-best nine rebounds. He led Tech with three assists as well.
His 20 points made him the fourth different Golden Eagle with at least 20 points in a game this season.
Micaiah Henry kept his strong start to the year going, finishing 6-for-10 from the floor on his way to 13 points. He rejected two shots as well, keeping his average at 2.0 blocks per game.
The 2018-19 schedule proves as one of the most daunting for the Golden Eagles in program history. Current preseason rankings would have it be the first season in team history where the Golden Eagles face 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 Tony Marable