Big Blue Hosts Jacksonville State on Tuesday
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Big Blue Hosts Jacksonville State on Tuesday

Tennessee State closes out a two-game homestand with Jacksonville State on Tuesday, Feb. 14. The Tigers and Gamecocks tipoff at 7 p.m. inside the Gentry Center.

A seven game win streak is on the line for TSU (17-10, 10-4 Ohio Valley) as the Tigers look to maintain their second place seed in the OVC. A win over Jacksonville State would almost assure the Tigers at least a top-4 bye in the OVC Conference Tournament.

The Tigers defeated Tennessee Tech 68-53 on Saturday evening to improve to 21-3 at the Gentry Center during the past two seasons. The Tigers led by one at the half, but broke out on a pair of runs to seal their seventh consecutive win. The win streak is the longest for a TSU team since the 1994-95 season.

TSU ranks No. 25 in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top-25 poll and is No. 3 / No. 4 in the weekly NCAA Division I HBCU polls.

On Monday, forward Robert Covington was named OVC Co-Player of the Week after averaging 16.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in victories over No. 7/9 Murray State and Jacksonville State. Covington scored 17 points and reeled in eight boards in the win over the Racers. He followed up that performance with 16 points and two rebounds against Tennessee Tech.

Patrick Miller is totaling 11.4 points per game and leads the Tigers with 96 assists. Meanwhile, senior Kenny Moore has notched 12.4 points and 3.8 rebounds in the past five games.

Jacksonville State (11-16, 6-7 OVC) has won two out of its' last three games, including a 69-55 win at Morehead State last Wednesday.

Earlier this season, JSU defeated the Tigers, 72-65, in Jacksonville on Jan. 7. Since the Gamecocks joined the OVC, TSU holds a 7-0 record at the Gentry Center.

The Gamecocks are without leading rebounder Stephen Hall, who was dismissed from the team on Jan. 17. Leading the way offensively is Brian Williams with 13.1 points per game. Nick Cook is now the team's top-rebounder, grabbing 4.3 boards a contest.

Albert Dawson and Mark Pittman are calling the action on the Big Blue Network (102.1 FM The Light Nashville / 101.9 FM Clarksville). Live stats and video will also be available online at TSUTigers.com.

Game Notes...

SCOUTING THE GAMECOCKS: Jacksonville State (11-16, 6-7 OVC) has won two out of the last three contests. JSU knocked off Morehead State, 69-55, last Wednesday and defeated UT Martin 85-74 on Feb. 2. The Gamecocks average 64.3 points and shoot 42 percent (608x1442) from the field. JSU is averaging 32.6 rebounds and shooting 27 percent (115x420). Brian Williams is averaging 13.1 points and Tarvin Gaines is second on the team with 10.9 ppg. With the subtraction of Stephen Hall, Nick Cook is now JSU's leading rebounder, grabbing 4.3 boards per contest.  

IT'S MILLER TIME: Patrick Miller is second on the team with 11.4 ppg and leads the team with 96 assists. He has reached double-digits in 18 out of the last 24 games.  Miller has multiple assists in 20 straight games.  He tied a career-high with 17 points in the win at UTM. In the last five games, Miller is averaging 9.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg and 3.6 apg.

February - The Month of Growth: February has been a solid month for the Tigers the past three seasons. TSU has not posted a losing record during the span. Last year, the Tigers were 4-4 and in John Cooper's first season Tennessee State managed a 5-3 mark. The Tiger's best record was 6-2 during the 2008-09 campaign. This year's 6-3 January record was the best for TSU since notching a 6-5 record in the 2007-08 season. Wins over SEMO, No. 7/9 Murray State and Tennessee Tech gave TSU a 3-0 start to February 2012. 

TIGERS NATIONALLY RANKED: Tennessee State cracked the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top-25 poll, ranking 25th after a win over Murray State. The Tigers are No. 3 in the Dr. Cavil Top 10 HBCU Division I Poll and No. 4 in the Boxtorow HBCU Division I Poll released on Feb. 6.

CONSISTENTLY COVINGTON: The consistency of Robert Covington has been one of TSU's strongest weapons this season. He has been the leading scorer in 20 of 27 games played this season.  Against Southeast Missouri, the junior notched his 17th career double-double and an OVC-best seventh this season with 23 points and 13 rebounds. Covington garnered OVC Co-Player of the Week honors after averaging 16.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in wins over Murray State and TTU. The Chicago product has reached double-figures in 26 straight games. Covington has collected 16 20-plus point performances in his career. With 17 points against UTM (Dec. 29), Covington eclipsed the 1,000 points mark becoming the first TSU player since Gerald Robinson, Jr. in 2009 to reach that milestone. Last week, Covington was announced as Boxtorow HBCU National Player of the Week. He was named to the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational All-Tournament team earlier this season and garnered OVC Player of the Week honors on Nov. 21. On the season, Covington ranks fourth in the OVC (51st NCAA) with 17.7 ppg and second in the OVC (98th NCAA) in rebounding (7.8 per game).  TSU is 12-5 this season when Covington scores 17 or more points.

PLENTY OF KENNY: Senior Kenny Moore is averaging 12.4 ppg and 3.8 rpg in the past five games. The Philadelphia product is shooting 45 percent (19-of-42) from the field, while grabbing 10 steals and dishing out 10 assists during that span. Moore is tallying 7.5 points and 3.2 rebounds in 20 games this season.

IT'S GREAT TO BE AT THE GENTRY: The Tigers boast a 21-3 record at the Gentry Center during the past two seasons. TSU has won 10 consecutive contests at home and finished with a 4-1 record against non-conference opponents at the Gentry. TSU has a nine game win streak against OVC opponents dating back to Feb. 5, 2011. The Tigers' only home blemishes were losses to Belmont (2010), Murray State (2011) and MTSU (2011).  TSU has a +11.7 average scoring margin at home this season.

WIL POWER: Nashville native and Whites Creek product Wil Peters has been instrumental in the rise of the TSU program. Peters has played in 119 games and 3,357 minutes during his four-year career. The senior has 92 assists in 27 games (3.4 apg). He has totaled 364 assists for 3.1 per game in his tenure.  On the season, Peters is averaging 7.7 points with an average of 33 minutes played per game.

TIGERS SETS HISTORIC NIGHT WITH WIN OVER MURRAY: Before the Murray State win on Feb. 9, the Big Blue was 0-10 against nationally ranked opponents in the Associated Press poll since 2002. Earlier this season, the Big Blue fell 69-102 at then ranked No. 1 North Carolina. The 72-68 win versus the Racers was the first ever win against a ranked opponent. Here is a list of opponents and results since 2002:

Feb. 9, 2012 - @#9 Murray State - W, 72-68
Nov. 22, 2011 - @#1 North Carolina - L, 69-102
Jan. 2, 2011 - @#21 Memphis - L, 86-91
Dec. 22, 2007 - @#17 Vanderbilt - L, 74-83
Dec. 3, 2007 - @#15 Indiana - L, 72-84
Dec. 2, 2006 - @#6 Alabama - L, 60-78
Nov. 21, 2006 - @#10 Kansas - L, 54-89
Jan. 2, 2005 - @#17 Louisville - L, 64-98
Dec. 18, 2004 - @#17 Alabama - L, 79-87
Dec. 6, 2003 - @#13 Georgia Tech - L, 43-94
Dec. 30, 2002 - @#20 Kentucky - L, 87-115

LOOKING AT THE NUMBERS (RPI): During the past two weeks, Tennessee State moved up 68 spots in the RPI rankings. In the rankings released on Feb. 13th, TSU moved to 141st nationally and second in the OVC. TSU has faced four opponents with a top-100 RPI: North Carolina 8, Saint Louis 23, Middle Tennessee 38 and Belmont 79. TSU defeated Murray State (54) once and will play the Racers again on Feb. 23.

GRABBING THE BOARDS: TSU ranks fourth in the OVC and is 83rd in the NCAA with a +2.4 rebounding margin. TSU is pulling in 34.6 rebounds per contest, while limiting opponents to 32.2 per game. Robert Covington leads TSU with 7.8 rebounds a contest, ranking second in the conference. The Tigers are 13-4 when grabbing 35+ rebounds. 

LIMITING THE OPPOSITION: When TSU limits its' opposition to 45 percent or less shooting, the Tigers are a remarkable 14-1. TSU is also 12-2 when they hold opponents to less than 67 points. The Big Blue has a 8-0 record when opponents bank less than 40 percent of their FGAs. In contrast, the Tigers are 1-7 when giving up 50 percent or more.

TRIPLE THREAT: The Tigers have plenty of options when it comes to 3-point shooting. TSU ranks fifth in the OVC with a 35.5 average (173-of-487). Four players have combined for 341 career made 3-pointers: Robert Covington (129), Wil Peters (121), Kenny Moore (51) and Patrick Miller (40). Against Murray State, Covington moved into ninth all-time at TSU with 127 triples, passing Darryl Brooks' mark set during the 1986-90 campaigns.

LINE ME UP: Coach John Cooper has experimented with nine different lineups. The Tigers hold an 9-1 record in the past 10 games with the combination of G Wil Peters, G Patrick Miller, G Jay Harris, F Robert Covington and F M.J. Rhett. The Tiger's only blemish was a 69-63 road loss to Austin Peay.

MARGINALLY TELLING: Tennessee State has played in many closely contested games since the 2008-09 seasons. During that span, the Tigers are 11-22 on the road in games decided by six points or less.   In contrast, the Tigers boast a 15-2 record at the Gentry.

YOU GELLIN' KELLEN?: Kellen Thornton has been on fire in the past five contests. The Illinois State transfer is posting 12.0 ppg and 5.2 rpg. The Chicago product clipped 61 percent (22-of-36) during that stretch, while grabbing  26 rebounds. On Feb. 6, Thornton was named OVC Newcomer of the Week after tallying 15.0 ppg and 5.5 rpg in wins over Austin Peay and SEMO.

SETTING THE MARK: Robert Covington and Wil Peters are close to reaching some career marks at Tennessee State. Covington is just five points away from reaching TSU's top-20 list for points scored and passing Mike Johnson's mark of 1,251 points set during the 1972-76 seasons. Covington is 15 rebounds away from reaching 13th on the all-time list. He has corralled 644 rebounds in 89 career games played.  Peters is 86 points away from reaching 1,000 points in his career. Peters is also 85 assists shy of becoming the all-time assists leader at Tennessee State.

WHERE WE STAND?: The Tigers currently sit in sole possession of second place with a win at No. 7/9 Murray State and a Tennessee Tech victory on Saturday. Southeast Missouri is currently in third place (9-4), but TSU holds the tiebreaker. TTU is in fourth (8-6), but TSU holds a tie-breaker as the Tigers are 2-0 against higher seeds.

-- TSU Tigers --