Cookeville, Tenn. - The Tennessee State men's basketball team won its third consecutive game on Thursday night with a 72-66 victory over OVC-rival Tennessee Tech.
The win pushed TSU's record to 8-7 and 2-0 in the OVC. It marks the first time this season that that Tigers went over .500.
Patrick Miller had a team-high 21 points for TSU with 16 coming in the second half. The junior guard made six of his 12 attempts and three of his five threes.
M.J. Rhett was second on the squad with a career-high 15 points while Jordan Cyphers was not far behind with 14. Deshawn Dockery also finished in double-figures with a career high of his own: ten points.
TSU shot 52.4 percent from the field (22-of-42) and held TTU to just a .368 line (21-of-57).
Rhett was TSU's leader in rebounds with 12 while Kellen Thornton finished with 10. Their efforts allowed the Tigers to edge TTU on the boards 38-32.
Both teams looked to be feeling each other out during the game's early going and neither side was able to score a point until Thornton hit a jumper at the 15:14 mark to put TSU up 2-0.
TSU clung to a narrow lead for the better part of the opening half thanks to seven straight points by Rhett, but eventually TTU tied the game at 22 when Jeremiah Samarripas hit a three at the 4:24 mark. The bucket was part of a 17-8 TTU run that put TSU behind by six.
Samarripas finished with a game-high 22 points by virtue of canning five three-point shots.
The two sides played it close for the remainder of the first half and the only separation proved to be a pair of free throws by TTU's Jud Dillard with 11 seconds left in the frame. The buckets made the score 31-29 in favor of the Golden Eagles.
Rhett had a solid all-around first half for TSU and the sophomore from Columbia, S.C. had a team-high nine points, eight boards and four blocks.
Strong defense was a key for TSU during the first half as the Tigers held the Golden Eagles to a 28 (7-of-25) percent shooting percentage during the opening frame. However, TTU was able to get 12 of its 31 first half points from the charity stripe.
Meanwhile, TSU shot 47.6 percent from the field (10-of-25) and 37.5 percent from three-point land (3-of-8).
The in-state rivals continued to duke it out in the second half until a 20-7 TSU run made the score 51-43 with the Tigers on top.
Miller led the charge with 12 of TSU's 20 points. He had a pair of threes during the 10 minute span and an emphatic breakaway dunk that silenced the Golden Eagle crowd.
With just three minutes left in the game, TSU was up by 11 points. However, the game was far from over as TTU resorted to fouling the Tigers every time down the court.
Tennessee State responded by nailing 11 free throws down the stretch to seal the victory, 72-66.
TSU will put its perfect 2-0 conference record on the line on Saturday when the team travels to Jacksonville State for a game against the Gamecocks. Tip-off is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. and the game can be seen on the OVC Digital Network.
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