Nashville, Tenn. - The Tennessee State men's basketball team will look to continue its best conference start since the 1994-95 season with a win over UT Martin on Thursday.
TSU improved to 9-7 overall by beating Jacksonville State 66 to 57 last Saturday. The Tigers currently sit at 3-0 in Ohio Valley Conference play and are leading Belmont, Eastern Kentucky and Morehead State by one-half games in the East Division.
Against JSU, forward M.J. Rhett had a career-high 16 rebounds and added 10 points for his second consecutive double-double. Kellen Thornton also had a double-double with 14 points and 14 boards.
Rhett's performance moved him into ninth place on the OVC's individual rebounds per game list, joining teammates Thornton and Robert Covington. The trio has been solid all season long and TSU is now second in the conference with a +2.1 rebound margin per game.
Rhett and Thornton have picked up the slack on the glass since Covington's knee injury, but Patrick Miller and Jordan Cyphers have made up for his absence on the offensive end.
Miller has averaged 20 points per contest in TSU's four-game winning streak while Cyphers isn't far behind at 15.3. In fact, Cyphers, Miller, Rhett and Thornton have scored 82 percent of TSU's 272 points over the last four games.
UT Martin (4-12, 1-3 OVC) comes into Thursday's contest having just defeated Austin Peay in overtime, 76-74. In that game, the Skyhawks got good production from Mike Liabo and Myles Taylor who scored 21 and 19 points, respectively.
The duo has led UT Martin all season long and Austin is averaging a team-high 16.4 points per contest while Liabo averages 13.4.
However, the combination of Taylor and Liabo were 14-of-36 (38.9 percent) against Austin Peay which is a microcosm of the season for the Skyhawks. UT Martin is last in the OVC in field goal percentage, holding a .384 line.
One thing UT Martin can do is rebound, especially on the offensive end where the squad ranks second in the conference with an average of 13.6 per contest. A large portion of the boards have come from Taylor, whose 7.7 per game lead the team.
TSU is 30-20 all-time versus UT Martin and won both of last year's meetings by a total of 29 points.
The Tigers will put their perfect 5-0 home record on the line against UT Martin on Jan. 10. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. and the matchup can be seen on the OVC Digital Network.
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