Nashville, Tenn. - After defeating USC-Upstate on Dec. 21 to improve to 6-7, the Tennessee State men's basketball team will try to get to .500 for the first time all season when the squad hosts Eastern Illinois on Saturday.
The game against the Panthers marks the 40th meeting between the schools, and TSU currently holds a 20-19 edge. The matchup will also be the first conference game of the season for both teams.
The Tigers finished the non-conference portion of their schedule last Friday night with a 67-64 win over the Spartans of USC-Upstate.
In that contest, TSU made a season-high 10 three-pointers and Jordan Cyphers, who missed the team's previous game with a stomach virus, notched a season-high 22 points.
Cyphers ranks 26th in the OVC, averaging 10.5 points per game. He joins Robert Covington (third), Kellen Thornton (14th) and Patrick Miller (27th) as one of four Tigers who are on the conference's top 30 scorers list.
TSU shot 47.8 percent from the field (22-of-46) against the Spartans, meaning the squad is now 6-1 when shooting above 40 percent. The win moved Big Blue's home record to 4-0 and 25-4 through the last four seasons.
The Tigers will put their perfect home record on the line against Eastern Illinois, who comes into the contest sporting a 3-10 record and losers of its last six.
The Panthers rank last in the OVC in scoring offense (56.1 ppg), free throw percentage (.596), field goal percentage defense (.472) and three-point percentage defense (.370).
However, EIU can rebound with the best of the conference on the defensive end and currently sit in first place in both rebounding defense (30.9 rpg) and defensive rebounding percentage (.721).
The main bulk of the rebounding can be attributed to two players- Josh Piper (11.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg) and Sherman Blanford (9.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg)- who also lead the team in points per game.
Another player that TSU must contain is Alex Austin who was just named the conference's freshman of the week after averaging 10.5 points, 1.5 steals, 1.0 rebounds and 1.0 assists/game in a pair of road contests.
Last year, TSU went 11-5 in the OVC and the team hopes to get off to another hot start when it takes on Eastern Illinois at the Gentry Center at 7:30 p.m. The game will start at the conclusion of the women's game and all kids k-12 get into the game free.