Road Swing Continues for Tigers with Visit to TTU
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Road Swing Continues for Tigers with Visit to TTU
The Tennessee State University men's basketball team continues the current three-game road trip with a visit to in-state rival Tennessee Tech on Thursday, Jan. 5. Tipoff with the Golden Eagles is slated for 7 p.m. at the Eblen Center in Cookeville.

The Tigers (8-7, 1-1 Ohio Valley) are coming off a tough 73-68 road loss to Eastern Kentucky. TSU outscored the Colonels 51-to-32 in the second half, but the comeback fell short.

Forward Robert Covington inked his 15th career double-double and fifth of the season with 18 points and 10 boards at EKU. Covington is fourth in the OVC with 17.2 points per game and second in the league with 7.7 rebounds a contest. 

TSU's Patrick Miller continues to average double-digits, posting 11.7 points in 15 contests this season. During the past five games, Miller has averaged 12.6 points and 3.6 assists.

Bob Cousy Award nominee Wil Peters continues his strong play. The Nashville product now leads the Tigers with 54 assists in 15 games, averaging 5.4 assists during the past five contests. Peters has an average of 8.0 points a game this season.

Through 15 games, the Big Blue is averaging 68.5 points per game with a 42.5 field goal percentage (353x830). TSU is third in the OVC in 3-point percentage (36.4). The Tigers rank second in the league with a rebound margin of +2.7.

The Tigers have dropped their last six consecutive OVC road contests and last won a game in an OVC gym against UT Martin on Jan. 8, 2011.

TTU holds a slight 27-25 edge in the series, splitting the two-game set last season. The past eight games between the Tigers and Golden Eagles have all been decided by single digits. The series is even at 4-4 during that stretch. The Tigers last captured a 77-74 win at the Eblen Center on Feb. 19, 2009.

Tennessee Tech (9-6, 1-1 OVC) has won two out of its' last three contests, including an 85-62 win at UT Martin on Dec. 31. The Golden Eagles are posting 72.7 points and 33.7 rebounds per contest.

TTU has the top-two league scorers in Kevin Murphy (18.8 ppg) and Jud Dillard (17.8 ppg). Dillard is also the top rebounder in the league, bringing in 8.8 rebounds a contest. TTU point guard Zac Swansey is fifth nationally with 2.8 steals per game and is 23rd in the NCAA with 6.1 assists per contest.

Albert Dawson and Mark Pittman will have the radio coverage via the Big Blue Network on 102.1 FM The Light and 101.9 FM in Clarksville. Live stats and video of the contest will also be available online at TSUTigers.com.

Game Notes...

SCOUTING THE GOLDEN EAGLES: Tennessee Tech (9-6, 1-1 OVC) has won two out of its' last three contests, including an 85-62 win at UT Martin on Dec. 31. First year head coach Steve Payne has helped the Golden Eagles to a 4-2 mark at home this season. TTU is averaging 72.7 ppg and 33.7 rebounds a contest. The Golden Eagles are shooting 46.3 percent (383x827) from the field, holding opponents to 45.0 percent (366x814) and 71.9 ppg. TTU has struggled with three-point defense, giving up 38 percent (101x266) behind the arch. Tech has the top-two scorers in the OVC. Kevin Murphy is averaging 18.8 points, while Jud Dillard immediately follows with 17.8 points per contest. Dillard is also the league's top-rebounder with an average of 8.6 boards a game. Guard Zac Swansey is of the top defensive guards in the country, averaging 2.8 steals per game, which is fifth nationally. Swansey is also 23rd in the NCAA with 6.1 assists per contest.

IT'S MILLER TIME: There's no such thing as the sophomore slump for Patrick Miller. The Chicago product is second on the team with 11.7 ppg and is tied for the team-lead with 52 assists. He has a team-best 25 steals and has reached double-digits in 11 out of the last 12 games.  He has multiple assists in eight straight games. Miller is averaging 12.6 points and 3.6 assists in the past five games.

NEW YEAR, NEW RESOLUTION: TSU has not posted a winning record in the month of January since the 2007-2008 campaign. However, that mark seems to be trending upward under third-year head coach John Cooper. And this year, the Tigers are hoping that is their New Year's resolution. The Tigers posted a 4-4 mark last season. The Tigers went 1-9 in 2009-10 and 3-6 during the 2008-09 season. The Tigers notched a 6-5 record in 2007-08 under then head coach Cy Alexander.

PUT YOUR TRUST IN COVINGTON: Junior forward Robert Covington has led Tennessee State in scoring in 11-of-15 games played this season.  With 17 points against UTM, Covington eclipsed the 1,000 points mark becoming the first TSU player since Gerald Robinson, Jr. in 2009 to reach that milestone. Covington reached his 14th consecutive double-digit point performance and his 15th career double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds against EKU. He has collected 12 20-plus point performances in his career.  The junior was named to the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational All-Tournament team after averaging 17.3 points and 6.5 rebounds.  Covington garnered OVC Player of the Week honors on Nov. 21 after posting 19.0 points and 9.7 rebounds in three games. On the season, Covington ranks fourth in the OVC with 17.2 ppg, is second in rebounding (7.7 per game) and third in blocks (1.2 per game).  TSU is 7-3 this season when Covington scores 17 or more points.

PLAYING IT CLOSE: This season, TSU is 4-3 in single-digit margins after picking up a 65-57 win over Central Michigan on Dec. 10 and a 59-55 victory at Delaware State on Dec. 17. The 2010-11 season saw the Tigers play 18 of their 30 games, including three overtime games, in tight-nit fashion. 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 ten points deciding the outcome.

LENDING A HAND: TSU is 7-3 this season when reaching double-figures in assists. In seven wins this season, the Tigers have dished out at least 11 assists. The highest for the Tigers was 24 vs. LeMoyne-Owen, the most since notching 24 against Morehead State in 2005.

NOTHING LIKE HOME: The Tigers now boast a 16-3 record at the Gentry Center during the past two seasons. The Tigers' five-game win streak at home was snapped earlier this season when Middle Tennessee defeated the Tigers, 77-62. The Tigers have since regained momentum winning the next four contests at the friendly confines and finishing with a 4-1 record against non-conference opponents at the Gentry.

WIL POWER: Nashville native and Whites Creek product Wil Peters has been instrumental in the rise of the TSU program the past four seasons. He was recently announced as a candidate for the  prestigious  Bob Cousy Award, which goes to the nation's top collegiate point guard. The stingy guard has inked 89 steals and dished out 323 assists during his lofty career.  So far this season, Peters has a team-best 52 assists in 15 games. During the last five games, he has dished out a team-best 27 assists (5.4 apg). Peters is averaging 8.0 ppg.  Peters is seventh in the OVC, averaging 33 minutes played a game. 

RPI RATINGS REVEALED: The recent RPI ratings released on Monday, Jan. 2 gave TSU a number of 214, ranking them fourth in the OVC. TSU has faced four opponents with a top-100 RPI: North Carolina 12, Saint Louis  59, Belmont 72 and Middle Tennessee 78. TSU will also play OVC-foe Murray State twice this season, which holds a 16 RPI.

GRABBING THE BOARDS: Tennessee State is tied for second in the OVC in rebounding offense, pulling in 34.9 boards per game. TSU is also third in rebounding defense with an average of 32.2 a contest and ranks second only behind Murray State with a +2.7 rebounding margin. Robert Covington leads TSU with 7.7 rebounds a contest, ranking fourth in the OVC. The Tigers are 6-2 when grabbing 35+ rebounds.

LIMITING THE OPPOSITION: When Tennessee State limits its' opposition to 45 percent or less, the Tigers are a remarkable 8-1. TSU is also 7-1 when they hold opponents to less than 67 points. TSU holds a 4-0 record when opponents bank less than 40 percent of their field goal attempts.

REJECTING THE SHOTS: The Tigers  are tied for third in the OVC with 3.4 blocked shots in 15 games. TSU's streak of three-plus deflections in eight games was snapped against UTM. TSU is 5-1 when notching four or more blocks this season. Leading the way for Robert Covington leads TSU with 18 blocks, followed by Michael Green with 12.

NEWCOMERS MAKING A DIFFERENCE: The trifecta of  TSU newcomers have been very important during the mid-way point of the season for the Tigers. Transfers Jordan Cyphers and Kellen Thornton are averaging 8.5 and 8.1 ppg, respectively.  Meanwhile, redshirt freshman M.J. Rhett has pulled five or more rebounds in six games this season. Rhett is corralling an average of 4.4 rebounds per game, which is second on the team.

CYPHERS STEPPING UP STRONG: During the past five games, Jordan Cyphers has made an immediate impact for the Tigers. The transfer from Utah is averaging 11.0 points a game. He is 17-of-38 (44.7) from the field and has knocked down 12 three-pointers during that stretch. The Wichita, Kan., native garnered his first OVC honor (Dec. 26), earning Co-Newcomer of the Week. He posted 17.0 ppg and made 55 percent (11-of-20) from the field in victories over LeMoyne-Owen and Alabama A&M.

SETTING THE MARK: Robert Covington and Wil Peters are close to reaching some career marks at Tennessee State. Covington is just 224 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 just 111 rebounds away from reaching 13th on the all-time list. The junior has corralled 548 rebounds in 77 career games played. Peters is 172 points away from reaching 1,000 points in his career. Peters is eight made triples shy of reaching 10th on the all-time list. He is also 128 assists shy of becoming the all-time assists leader in school history.

-- TSU TIGERS --