NASHVILLE, Tenn. – After a tough start to its season, TSU’s men’s basketball team will look for new life when they begin conference play Saturday.
Tennessee State comes into the weekend meeting at Eastern Illinois (3-8) with a 1-12 record, including dropping its last two contests. On the year the Tigers have battled their opponents close, with five of the twelve losses being 10 points or fewer.
Senior point guard Patrick Miller paces the TSU attack, averaging 20.9 points per contest. The mark leads the OVC and ranks the Chicago native 23rd in the country. Miller has scored in double figures in 26 consecutive games dating back to TSU’s Jan. 24 game at Eastern Kentucky.
The point guard also ranks sixth in the Ohio Valley in assists dishing out 4.3 helpers per game.
In the frontcourt junior M.J. Rhett carries the load, nearly averaging a double double on the year. Rhett comes into the weekend scoring an average of 10.3 points and pulling down 9.5 rebounds per contest. The Columbia, S.C. native has racked up six double doubles on the young season, which is the 12th best total in Division I basketball.
After dropping their contest last Saturday against Miami (OH), 79-64, the Tigers will take on a struggling EIU squad this Saturday in Charleston, Ill.
The Panthers are on a six-game losing skid dating back to the team’s win over Roosevelt University on Nov. 23. On the year, EIU has only one win over a Division I opponent, an 86-66 victory over Illinois-Chicago on Nov. 16.
EIU features four players averaging more than nine points per game. Guard Reggie Smith leads the team in scoring (11.9), while also dishing out a team high 22 assists on the year.
Defense is the Panthers calling card, holding opponents to just 69.9 points per contest. The mark has the Panthers ranked as the second best unit in the OVC.
Eastern Illinois is aided by their presence in the post, with three players ranking in the top 15 of the OVC leaders in blocks. The three players include the Piotrowski brothers: Mat (1.4) and Luke (0.9), joined by Keenan Anderson’s 1.1 rejections per game.
Saturday’s contest will mark the first OVC matchup for each team this season. Last season TSU played host to the Panthers, a 67-59 win. Miller led the Tennessee State attack with 28 points, finishing 7-of-8 from the floor.
The Tigers narrowly lead the series between the two conference foes, 21-19.
Tip-off for the clubs’ Ohio Valley opener is slated for 2 p.m. at EIU’s Lantz Arena.