Previewing Tennessee Tech: Men's basketball looks for seventh consecutive victory


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CMU bench celebrates after a 3-point shot on Dec. 5 in McGuirk Arena. 

With a win on Dec. 9 at 1 p.m. against Tennessee Tech., the Central Michigan men’s basketball team (7-1) would match half its win total from a season ago.

The Chippewas will also be going for their seventh straight win on the 2017-18 season.

Head coach Keno Davis said he is aware of the Golden Eagles (7-3) good non-conference record and the win they got at New Mexico, knowing it will be a challenge to win.

“We know what to expect a little bit because we went down there and played them last season,” Davis said. “They are a really talented team, balanced scoring team just like ourselves. So I know both teams really want this win.”

When the two teams met a season ago, it was CMU coming out on top 86-74 in Cookeville, Tennessee.

What’s new for CMU

The Chippewas are coming off a win where they held Montana State to 48 points, the second time they’ve held an opponent under 50 points this year.

Davis said the defense has been the key so far this season to having as strong of an offense as they've been able to produce. 

“I don’t think anyone expected us to be a top-five team in the country in scoring this season,” Davis said. “We know we have a lot of guys that can score, but we knew in order to win we had to be physically better defensively and we had to cut down all the numbers on that side of the ball, which I think our defense has bought into.”

Davis said he knows how important it is to improve on some of the holes the team may have right now on defense.

“There are going to be times this season where teams do find weakness in our defense without a question,” Davis said. “It is just important that we improve on those right now and fix the mistakes before conference play begins.”

CMU is allowing just over 60 points per contest, good for 10th in all of Division I basketball and first place in the Mid-American Conference.

Matty Smith, a sophomore point guard currently battling an injury, said the difference in CMU’s defense this year compared to last year is visible.

“It’s night and day,” Smith said. “It’s just a testament to how hard these guys are working out there everyday in practice. It's truly amazing how much we’ve changed just over night.”

Getting to know TTU

The Golden Eagles are coached by Steve Payne, who is now in his seventh season as TTU’s head coach and his 16th season overall with the program. He’s compiled a 91-97 overall record in his tenure with TTU.

TTU has had the same five starters for all 10 of its contests this season — guards Aleksa Jugovic and Kajon Mack and forwards Courtney Alexander II, Mason Ramsey and Curtis Phillips Jr.

Phillips Jr. (13.9), Jugovic (13.8) and Mack (12.9) are the top-three leading scorers for the Golden Eagles and the only three players that average double figures in scoring on the team.

As a team, TTU averages just under 83 points per game as well as holding its opponents to 73.6 per. The Golden Eagles have coughed up 156 turnovers this season (15.6 per game), but makes up for it by shooting 49.1 percent from the field and an even 38 percent from deep.

The Golden Eagles are on the opposite end of the streak-spectrum as CMU, coming in as losers of two in a row with their most recent loss coming on Dec. 6 against Dayton, 79-66. 

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