GAME NOTES: The Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles will attempt to halt a season- long losing streak on Saturday night when they play host to the Belmont Bruins in an Ohio Valley Conference matchup at the Eblen Center.
Belmont visited Jacksonville State on Thursday night and secured a 73-62 win for its first-ever victory in the OVC. The triumph only added to a great start for the Bruins, who as recently as last season, were members of the Atlantic Sun Conference. The team has won 10 of its first 14 games this season, although three of their four losses have come on the road.
Tennessee Tech's season has been defined by its streakiness. After winning its first three games, the team promptly fell into a three-game losing streak, only to win three of its next four. The Golden Eagles are once again on the downward slope, having dropped four straight, most recently falling in a home conference bout to visiting Tennessee State on Thursday, 72-66.
These newly-formed conference rivals have faced each other 11 times previously, with Belmont winning each time. This is however, their first meeting since the 1998-99 season.
The Bruins were able to topple a 10-win Jacksonville State squad by putting forth an impressive shooting performance. In addition to making 52 percent of their field goal attempts, they also had a perfect night from the foul line (17of-17). All five starters reached double figures in the victory, paced by J.J. Mann, who recorded a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Blake Jenkins was also strong in the frontcourt with 14 points, nine boards and two blocks, while Ian Clark logged 12 points and four steals. The balanced effort was capped off by a pair of 11-point performances from Kerron Johnson and Trevor Noack. Belmont has been solid from the field all season, draining 46.7 percent of its total shots for an average of 73.4 ppg (second-best in the OVC). Clark leads the way with 17.0 ppg thanks to an outstanding 44-of-98 showing from 3-point range (.449). Johnson adds 13.6 ppg, while Noack (12.4 ppg) and Jenkins (10.1 ppg, 1.7 bpg) are both strong in the frontcourt with 5.8 rpg apiece.
Despite holding a halftime lead in its latest game, Tennessee Tech was out- performed by Tennessee State in the second half as it was saddled with the six-point home loss. The Eagles certainly did not help themselves with their performance from the floor, as they made good on just 21-of-58 shots (.362), and their only saving grace came in the form of nine 3-pointers. Jeremiah Samarrippas went 5-of-10 from beyond the arc for a team-high 22 points, while Lanerryl Johnson logged 22 minutes off the bench and took full advantage with 21 points. Jud Dillard added 13 points, and Dennis Ogbe was strong on the glass with 13 rebounds. While TTU has a respectable .438 field goal percentage, it averages just 65.7 ppg, which ranks in the bottom-third of the league. Doing most of the heavy lifting is Dillard, who ranks second in the OVC in scoring with 18.0 ppg, while draining greater than 47 percent of his field goal attempts and grabbing a team-high 7.2 rpg. Samarrippas runs the point and tallies 10.7 ppg and 3.9 rpg, although he also commits 3.4 of the team's 15.4 turnovers per contest.
The Golden Eagles clearly played better in their return home on Thursday, but they still haven't shown the ability to keep up with the top teams in the conference. Belmont has been rolling along of late, and it should be able to overcome the hostile environment to win its second straight road game.