The Tigers (2-2) staved off a furious South Carolina rally on Sunday to pick up a 64-63 win over the Gamecocks, TSU's first ever against a SEC opponent.
Forward Robert Covington led the Tigers with 16 points and nine rebounds. He earned OVC Player of the Week honors after averaging 19.0 points, 9.7 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.0 assists in three games for the Tigers.
Covington set a career-high with 10 made field goals at Fisk, posting a game-high 24 points. The Bellwood, Ill., product has led TSU in scoring in all four games this season.
Senior Kenny Moore is second on the team with 8.0 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. Sophomore guard Patrick Miller has been stout defensively, posting a team-best 16 assists and 11 steals in four starts.
TSU and UNC are meeting for the first time in school history. The Tigers are 0-5 all-time against Atlantic Coast Conference opponents. TSU's last meeting with an ACC foe was Georgia Tech on Dec. 30, 2008, when the Yellow Jackets defeated the Tigers, 63-58.
North Carolina (3-0) ranks first in both the Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll. Four Tar Heels are averaging double-figures with Tyler Zeller and Harrison Barnes posting 17.3 points per game. Forward John Henson follows with 16.7 ppg, 11.0 rpg and 12 blocks this season.
The game will be televised nationally on ESPN3 with Sam Gore calling the action and former Wake Forest head coach Dino Gaudio giving analysis. Live stats will be available online at TSUTigers.com.
SCOUTING NORTH CAROLINA:
The North Carolina Tar Heels (3-0) are currently ranked first in the both the Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll. Carolina is averaging 86.3 points a game, giving up just 68.3 points from their opponents. UNC picked up a 101-75 victory over Mississippi Valley State in the opening round of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational. Offensively, the Tar Heels are shooting 96-of-192 (50 percent) during the first three games. Four UNC players are averaging double-figures including Tyler Zeller and Harrison Barnes with17.3 points per game. Forward John Henson is averaging a double-double with 16.7 points and 11.0 rebounds each game. Henson also has a team-best 12 blocks.
COACHING CONNECTIONS TO UNC:
Tennessee State assistant coach Rick Duckett is a graduate of the University of North Carolina and began his coaching career as a graduate assistant in 1979 at Carolina. Duckett coached alongside current UNC Head Coach Roy Williams during that span. Duckett was the head coach at Fayetteville State from 1993 until 1998, which included TSU Head Coach John Cooper on his staff (1993 to 1995). Duckett began his second head coaching gig at Winston Salem State in 1998, where he posted a 73-19 mark until he moved on to South Carolina as an assistant in 2001. The Winston Salem native spent two seasons as a color analyst for UNC Greensboro in 2008 and 2009.
BURNING UP THE RUBBER:
TSU men's basketball will approximately travel 5,518 round trip miles during the first three weeks of the season. Last week, Tennessee State played games at Saint Louis and Western Kentucky. This week, TSU travels to Columbia, S.C. then to Chapel Hill, N.C. before venturing out west for the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational.
WINDY CITY CONNECTION:
Tennessee State University has four athletes that are from the Chicago area: Robert Covington, DeShawn Dockery, Patrick Miller and Kellen Thornton. TSU signee Reggie Johnson will become the fifth Chicago native to don the Big Blue uniform for the Tigers next fall.
With five starters returning and three Division-I transfers eligible, the Tigers are looking to get off to a fast start after winning just three games over the past three seasons during the month of November. The first month of the 2009 season saw a 1-5 start, while the Tigers went 1-6 in 2010. So far in 2011, TSU is 2-2 after a 64-63 win over South Carolina. The Tigers' two wins in the month of November are the most since the 2008 season.
COVINGTON EARNS POW HONOR:
Forward Robert Covington was named the Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Week, as announced by the league office on Monday, after notching 19.0 points and 9.7 rebounds last week for the Tigers. The Bellwood, Ill., native averaged 19.0 points, 9.7 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.0 assists/game in three games last week. The junior hit 55.0 percent (22-of-40) from the field, 38.5 percent (5-of-13) from 3-point range and 88.9 percent (8-of-9) from the free throw line as the Tigers beat South Carolina and Fisk and lost by three points at Western Kentucky. In the team's biggest first ever win over an SEC foe, Covington scored 16 points, pulled down nine rebounds, had three assists and one steal while also draining three 3-pointers in the 64-63 win at South Carolina. Covington has led TSU in scoring in the first four contests this season. The junior is first in the the OVC in rebounding with 8.3 per game and tied for first in defensive rebound with 6.0 a game.
DISHING AND STEALING:
Sophomore guard Patrick Miller leads the Tigers with 16 assists through four games. The Chicago product had a team-best six assists and reached double-figures for the first time this season with 11 points at South Carolina. Miller also leads the Tigers in steals with 11, which ranks second in the Ohio Valley. The reigning OVC Freshman of the Year is averaging 7.0 points, 4.0 assists, 2.8 steals and 1.8 rebounds per game.
CYPHERS STEPPING IN NICELY:
TSU junior Jordan Cyphers stepped off the bench and inked his first double-digit game on Sunday. The Utah transfer picked up 12 points, including a trifecta of three-pointers that helped the Tigers pick up the 64-63 upset over South Carolina. Cyphers recorded TSU's only block and collected two rebounds in the win. Cyphers is averaging 6.3 and 1.8 rebounds in four games this season.
Nashville native and Whites Creek product Wil Peters has been instrumental in the rise of the TSU program the past four seasons. The stingy point guard has inked 77 steals and dished out 276 assists during his lofty career. Last season, he ranked in the top-5 in the OVC with 125 assists in 30 games played. So far this season, Peters has five assists in five games. He is averaging 6.3 points and 2.3 rebounds per game this year. Peters is second in the OVC, averaging 34 minutes played a game.
BLUE MAN GROUP:
As a team, the Tigers' returning seven averaged 172 minutes per game and 58.9 points per game on 584-of-1337 shooting from the field (.437). They shot .378 (154-for-407) from behind the arch and .758 (445-for-587) from the charity stripe. The returning seven massed 806 rebounds (26.9 rpg), 336 assists (11.2 apg), 175 steals (5.8 spg) and 102 blocks (3.4 bpg).
With seven returnees, including all five starters, 86.4 percent of all points scored (1,767 of 2044), 81.1 percent of rebounding (806 of 994), 90.1 percent of the assists (336 of 373), 88.8 percent of steals (175 of 197), 98.1 percent of the blocks (102 of 104) and 84.9 percent of the minutes played (5152 of 6070) are back for the Tigers to build on last season's 14-win team.
Former NBA star and Tennessee State legend Dr. Dick Barnett was on campus last Wednesday in hopes of getting support from the university and Nashville community for his quest to have the 1957, 1958 and 1959 NAIA National Champion teams recognized in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Dr. Barnett was a member of three peat National Champions and went on to have an illustrious career in the NBA, most notably with the New York Knicks. A documentary film crew was also on hand last week, filming Barnett's quest to have the team recognized in the Hall of the Fame. The crew called Live Star Entertainment recently produced a documentary for HBO called Cornered: A Life Caught in the Ring.
WELCOME BACK TO VEGAS:
TSU is participating in the 11th annual Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational for the third time. The Tigers previously appeared in the tournament in 2004 and 2006. Prior to the win at South Carolina on Sunday, TSU was 0-4 in the meetings at on-campus sites. The Tigers hold a perfect 4-0 record against opponents inside Orleans Arena.
-- TSU TIGERS --