Nashville, Tenn. - The Tennessee State men's basketball team held Belmont to a season-low 19 percent from the three-point line and knocked off the East Division's top team, 80-69, on Thursday night.
TSU's victory was its first against Belmont (20-6, 11-2 OVC) since 1987- before the Bruins became members of Division I.
Robert Covington led the Tigers with 25 points on 7-of-9 shooting. He also made 3-of-4 from outside the three-point line and all eight of his free throws. His 25 were his most since Dec. 16 against Lemoyne-Owen
Thornton also pulled in a game-high ten rebounds for his eighth double-double of the season. Covington added seven boards, helping TSU win the battle on the glass, 35-30.
Cyphers nailed TSU's first bucket with a long two-pointer, but Thornton was the Tigers' main option early, scoring six of TSU's first eight points on 3-of-4 shooting.
Thornton finished the half with a team-high eight points and a pair of boards.
Despite the forward's hot start, the Bruins managed to build an 18-8 lead by scoring nine points off of seven TSU turnovers within the game's first eight minutes. The frequency of TSU miscues made Tennessee State head coach Travis Williams burn his team's first timeout with 11:20 left in the half.
The pep-talk worked as Covington nailed a three on the Tigers' following possession, sparking an 11-2 run that included baskets from Thornton, Miller and Rhett as well.
The string of hoops cut the Belmont lead to one with 6:10 to play until halftime.
The sides traded hoops for the better part of the period, but the Tigers ended the period on an 8-0 run to take the lead, 31-28, heading into the locker room.
All eight of TSU's points occurred during the last 55 seconds of the half.
TSU shot 50 percent (12-of-24) from the field during the first frame and held the Bruins to a 37.5 line (12-of-32). The Tigers also forced 12 turnovers and blocked five shots during the first 20 minutes.
Tennessee State came out strong to start the second half and increased its lead to 37-30 when Covington slammed down a dunk at the 18:46 mark.
TSU eventually raised its lead to eight, 48-40, when Thornton went on a run in which the senior made three consecutive fade-away jumpers- the last occurring with just over 12 minutes to play.
The sides went back-and-forth for the game's next seven minutes, but the Bruins were able to tie the game at 59 with a pair of free throws.
The stalemate was short-lived, as M.J. Rhett and Cyphers had layups on TSU's next two possessions to make the score 63-59 in favor of the home team with under four minutes to go.
TSU continued to roll and raised its advantage to seven when Miller poured in a layup with just two minutes left in the game.
The Tigers made all eight of their free throws to close the game and walked away with an 80-69 upset victory.
With the win, TSU improves to 10-0 at the Gentry Center, matching the team's best start since 1992-93.
Tennessee State will next travel to SIUE for a game against the Cougars. The game is scheduled for Feb. 20 with a 7 p.m. tip-off
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