After a 10-win season in the OVC last year, the Tigers are trying to build on the momentum. TSU was projected to finish fourth in the preseason poll voted on by the league's coaches and sports information directors.
It's easy to see why there is excitement as TSU brings back the entire starting lineup and seven returners from a year ago.
Among those returning are preseason All-Conference selections Robert Covington and Kenny Moore.
Covington tallied 13.4 points and averaged 7.5 rebounds a game last season. During his sophomore campaign, he shot 50 percent (150x300) from the floor and led TSU with a .460 3-point field goal percentage. Defensively, Covington picked up 1.5 steals per game.
In just his first season at TSU, Moore compiled a team-high 14.6 points per game, while reeling in 6.9 rebounds each contest. The Philadelphia product reached double-figures 23 times and notched five double-doubles last season.
Also returning is 2010-11 OVC Freshman of the Year, Patrick Miller. The Chicago, Ill., product was third on the team posting 11.4 points per game, while dishing out 89 assists.
Nashville native Wil Peters returns for his senior campaign, after collecting a team-best 125 assists and tallying an average of 10.5 points per game. Forward Michael Green returns for his sophomore season. The Columbia, S.C., native put together an average of 4.3 points and 4.1 rebounds in 30 games played last season.
TSU will have four student-athletes eligible for the first time this season. Three of those are transfers: Muniru Bawa (Indiana), Jordan Cyphers (Utah) and Kellen Thornton (Illinois State). Freshman M.J. Rhett will also play after redshirting last season.
The Tigers also have three true freshmen: Kharon Butcher, Jay Harris and Taylor Ward.
TSU and Saint Louis are meeting for the fourth time in school history with the Tigers holding a 2-1 edge over the Billikens. In last year's matchup, SLU shot 52.7 percent (29x55) and forced 21 TSU turnovers in the 78-50 win over the Tigers.
The Billikens finished 12-19 last season and 6-10 in the Atlantic-10. The Billikens return all five starters, along with seven others from last year's team, and are led by Kwamain Mitchell who red-shirted last season after a sophomore campaign where he averaged 15.9 points per game. SLU has been picked to finish third this season in the A-10.
Live stats and video of Saturday's game will be available online at TSUTigers.com. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. at Chaifetz arena in St. Louis, Mo.
LET'S GET IT STARTED: The Tigers are 47-20 (.701) all-time on opening days and are 5-5 (.500) over the past ten years. Coach Cooper is looking for his first win in a season opener after dropping a road game to Mississippi State, 75-65, last year and falling to Siena, 85-69, at home in his first season in blue.
SCOUTING SAINT LOUIS: The Billikens are coached by Rick Majerus who is in his 25th season of coaching with a 491-208 record. Majerus is in his fifth season at Saint Louis and has a 69-61 record. SLU finished 12-19 last season and 6-10 in the Atlantic-10, placing them fifth. The Billikens return all five starters, along with seven others from last year's team, and are led by Kwamain Mitchell who red-shirted last season after a sophomore campaign where he averaged 15.9 points per game. SLU has been picked to finish third this season in the A-10.
MAJOR RETURNS: 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 seasons 14-win team.
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 arc 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).
NOVEMBER BLUES: With five starters returning and three Division-I transfers eligible, the Tigers are looking to get off to a fast start after winning just two games over the past two 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.
PLAYING IT CLOSE: Single-digit margins appeared in 18 of the Tigers 30 games last season, including three overtime games. TSU finished 9-9 in those games, 2-1 with an extra session. Ten games in a 12-game stretch from Dec. 19 (Morehead State) to Feb. 7 (Jacksonville State) all finished with less than 10 points deciding the outcome.
DOUBLE YOUR PLEASURE: Robert Covington and Kenny Moore teamed up to each record double-doubles in two games last season. Covington went on to record six more double-doubles and Moore reached the mark in three other games. The Tigers were 2-0 in the games both men accomplished the task, 3-0 when Moore went solo and 5-1 with Covington crossed the threshold; for a combined 8-1 record.
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