Tennessee Tech (8-13) at Belmont (18-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 2, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Curb Events Center (5,000) -- Nashville, Tennessee. Television:. Home Record: TTU 5-4, Belmont 9-0. Away Record: TTU 3-9, Belmont 7-3. Neutral Record: TTU 0-0, Belmont 2-1. Conference Record: TTU 2-7, Belmont 9-0. Series Record:Tennessee Tech leads, 11-1.
GAME NOTES: The Belmont Bruins look to preserve their perfect Ohio Valley Conference record and 16-game home winning streak as they host the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles at the Curb Events Center.
These newly-formed conference rivals had faced each other 11 times before this season, with TTU winning each time. In their first meeting since the 1998-99 season and inaugural as OVC foes, Belmont cruised to an 83-52 victory as J.J. Mann and Ian Clark drained five 3-pointers apiece to combine for 40 points for the Bruins.
The Golden Eagles have gone 2-4 since that contest to arrive at an 8-13 overall record. TTU was defeated, 84-65, by Tennessee State on Thursday to fall to a 3-9 away record. Coach Steve Payne's squad is just eighth in the OVC in scoring defense (66.8) and two spot worse in scoring offense (63.8).
Leading TTU into this one will be Jud Dillard, who on top of averaging 19.5 points per game, including over 20 per contest in league action, has grabbed 7.7 rebounds this season to lead the Golden Eagles. He ranks sixth in the conference in the category and raises that number to 8.2 in OVC games. SMU transfer Jeremiah Samarrippas is chiming in with 9.2 points and 4.1 assists per conference game, but Dillard does not have too much help beyond the former Mustang.
The Bruins will have no trouble with TTU's two-man show. They have already emerged as the class of the conference in their inaugural tour of the league, winning all nine of their games since entering OVC action to rise to a 18-4 overall record. During the run through the conference, coach Rick Byrd's squad has averaged 84.0 ppg. The dominance over conference rivals is nothing new. Belmont and Kansas are the only two programs in the nation to win 12 or more conference games each of the past 10 seasons.
Belmont had a close call on Jan. 24, as it escaped its road trip to Morehead State with just a one-point victory. It then defeated Eastern Kentucky by 11 points before completing a 93-74 rout of Morehead State in a rematch. Kerron Johnson made a career-high 19 free throw attempts to reach 25 points. Clark added 18 points while Blake Jenkins (15) and Mann (14) scored in double- figures to round out a balanced effort. The efficiency on the offensive end has become routine for Belmont, which owns the highest scoring average (77.7) and second-best scoring defense (63.9) in the OVC.
The Bruins played a very difficult non-conference schedule to prepare for their OVC debut, but they are consistently overmatching the opposition in their new conference. Belmont will need to maintain its intensity and not take its foot off the gas against TTU, which will be out for revenge.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Belmont 76, Tennessee Tech 57
02/02 10:37:15 ET