Davis, Payne discuss their keys to success this season

Mason Ramsey fights off defenders in the last season's opener against Piedmont International.

The 2015-2016 Golden Eagles men and women’s basketball schedules have been released, and fans will have the chance to catch both squads in action during eight double-headers throughout the upcoming season. A renovated Hooper Eblen Center also awaits Tennessee Tech fans.

The men kick off their season Nov. 14 at home against Piedmont College. The team then jumps straight into tournament action with the Air Force classic beginning Nov. 16. It is comprised of two away games against Air Force and New Mexico State before returning to Cookeville to host Robert Morris and Mississippi Valley State Nov. ( 24 and 27, respectively.

Home games continue into December with Tech hosting UC Clermont Nov. 28, Mississippi Valley State Nov. 29 and East Tennessee State Dec. 2. Arkansas is the only Southeastern Conference team on the schedule, and head coach Steve Payne expects his team to be competitive, saying they don’t schedule those games to get beat.

Payne said he thinks the play of his guards, the team’s shooting, as well as defensive and offensive play in general will see improvements from past seasons. There are several players who could have a breakout season.

Torrance Rowe, Josiah Moore, Anthony Morse and Ryan Martin will set the tone for the squad this season. Martin had to sit out last season because of the NCAA, and Payne anticipates him being one of the power forwards in the OVC. Payne said he is confident in his senior class, and the team will depend on them to fill the void of players who graduated.

“We lost two talented post players between (Charles) Jackson and (Dwan) Caldwell,” said Payne. “I think Ryan Martin will help offset some of that. Guys like Mason Ramsey and Anthony Morse will have to step up – they’ve got an opportunity – and then we’ll get a chance for them to show that.”

Both teams have almost identical schedules in January and February against OVC opponents. There are three home double-headers in January against Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Jan. 2, Southeast Missouri Jan. 16 and Belmont Jan. 30. February features two home double-headers against Jacksonville State Feb. 13 and Eastern Kentucky Feb. 27 to wrap up the regular season for both teams.

The women also start the regular season at home Nov. 14, hosting Arkansas State. The Golden Eagles play at home the next three games against Mercer Nov. 16, Georgia State Nov. 19 and Lipscomb Nov. 22. The team’s first OVC matchup will be Dec. 31 against Eastern Illinois at home. Tech will face stiff competition in December when Clemson, Louisville and Wichita State come to town. Georgia is the lone SEC team on the schedule. Women’s head coach Jim Davis said the team understands that it’s not the size of the dog in the fight; it’s the size of the fight in the dog when it comes to playing larger programs.

Strength comes in numbers, and Davis expects the team’s depth to help make this season successful. With a lot of new faces on the team, there could be up to 12 players who experience a breakout season.

Three players to keep an eye on are Samaria Howard, Mariah Dean and Hannah Goolsby. Davis is proud of how hard his players have worked, saying they are more competitive with each other in practice and show a high level of enthusiasm. A great work ethic, great attitude and good team chemistry translate into wins, and Davis anticipates this season will be a fun one to play and watch.

Both head coaches want to see a rise in the number of Tech students who attend basketball games this season.

“I would like to encourage students to come and support our basketball teams,” said Davis. “We go to other universities and their student sections are packed. I want that to happen at Tennessee Tech. I don’t want anyone to be better than Tennessee Tech at anything, especially that.”

The first chance to witness the Golden Eagle basketball action will be Oct. 27 at the third annual Purple Palooza in the Hooper Eblen Center.