Tigers Turn Focus to Alabama A&M on Wednesday
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Tigers Turn Focus to Alabama A&M on Wednesday
With a three-game win streak intact, the Tennessee State University men's basketball team looks to extend that momentum when Alabama A&M visits the Gentry Center on Wednesday evening. The contest is slated for a 7 p.m. tip.

After a crushing 92-55 victory over LeMoyne-Owen on Monday, the Tigers (6-6) are looking to obtain a winning record before the winter break for the first time since Frankie Allen's squad did so in 1994. Also, TSU is playing the final stanza of three games in five days.

The Tigers shot a season-best 56 percent (34-of-61) from the field, limiting the Magicians to just 33 percent (19-of-58) shooting. The Tigers dished out 24 assists, the most since dialing out 24 against Morehead State in Feb. 2005.

Once again TSU's offensive leader has been Robert Covington. The junior forward picked up his 14th career double-double with 21 points and 11 boards, notching his 11th consecutive double-figure game. Covington is just 26 points shy of reaching the 1,000-points club at Tennessee State. Covington is averaging 17.0 points and 8.0 rebounds per game, ranking fourth and second in the OVC, respectively.

Patrick Miller is also in double-figures for TSU with 10.9 ppg, while leading the Tigers with a team-high 43 assists through 12 games.

Bob Cousy award nominee Wil Peters eclipsed the 300-plus assists mark in his career on Monday, dishing out seven against LeMoyne-Owen. Peters has 306 assists and 84 steals in his three-plus year career at Tennessee State.

The Tigers are averaging 66.5 points per game for 41 percent (275-of-668) from the field. The Tigers have increased their 3-point average to 36 percent (85-of-236) during the last few contests. TSU is tied for second in the league with 3.5 blocks per contest.

Alabama A&M (2-5) and the Tigers are meeting for the 18th time on Wednesday with the Tigers holding a 14-3 edge in the series. TSU defeated the Bulldogs, 74-68, in Normal last season. When the Bulldogs last visited the Gentry Center in 2009, TSU narrowly hung on with a 80-77 win.

AAMU started the season 2-1, but has dropped four consecutive games. The Bulldogs fell 65-54 to Georgia Tech on Monday. Leading the way for the Bulldogs is forward Casey Canty with 13.6 points and 4.0 rebounds per game.

This season, Alabama A&M is shooting just 38 percent (157-of-415) from the field, while averaging 62.6 points a contest.

Tickets for Wednesday's game can be purchased by calling the TSU Ticket office at 615-963-5841. Fans that purchase a ticket for the Alabama A&M game, will receive free admission to the Lady Tigers/Florida A&M game on Thursday. Live stats and video will also be available online at TSUTigers.com.

Game Notes...

SCOUTING THE BULLDOGS: Alabama A&M (2-5) has dropped four consecutive games after opening the season with a 2-1 record. The Bulldogs fell 87-57 at No. 20 Michigan on Dec. 17 and most recently lost a 65-54 contest at Georgia Tech on Monday evening. The Bulldogs are averaging 62.6 ppg and shooting just 37.8 percent (157-of-415) from the field. Through seven games, the Bulldogs are pulling in 36.1 boards a game and shooting an anemic 26.3 percent (35-fo-133) behind the arch. Alabama A&M is led by senior Forward Casey Canty (13.6 ppg and 4.0 rpg). Demarquelle Tabb is leading the Bulldogs with 7.3 rebounds a contest. Nearby Hazel Green native Jeremy Crutcher is totaling 9.4 ppg and has dished out a team-best 26 assists this season.

AVOIDING THE SOPHOMORE JINX: There's no such thing as the sophomore slump for sophomore Patrick Miller. The Chicago product is second on the team with 10.9 ppg and leads the Tigers with 43 assists. He has a team-best 22 steals and is shooting 37 percent (39-of-106) from the field. The Chicago product reached double-digits in eight consecutive games (Nov. 20-Dec. 19). 

REMEMBER DECEMBER: TSU hopes to repeat what it did a year ago. December 2010 marked one of the best months for the Tigers in recent memory. Tennessee State posted a 5-2 record during that span, including a five-game win streak that stretched from Dec. 4 until Dec. 21. TSU's only losses during that month were at Eastern Illinois (67-68) and at Middle Tennessee (58-65). The Tigers were a perfect 3-0 at the Gentry Center last December. This season, the Tigers are 3-2 in the month of December. If the Tigers win against Alabama, it will be the first time the Tigers have claimed a winning record at that point since 1994.

PUT YOUR TRUST IN COVINGTON: Junior forward Robert Covington has led Tennessee State in scoring in eight of 12 games played this season. The Bellwood, Ill., product managed his 14th career double-double with 21 points and 11 boards versus LeMoyne-Owen. The double-digit point performance was his 11th consecutive this season and the 52nd in his three-plus year career. Covington has pulled in seven or more boards in the last six games. 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.  Covington has collected 12 20-plus point performances in his career. He is just 26 points away from reaching the 1,000 points club at TSU. On the season, Covington ranks fourth in the OVC with 17.0 ppg and is second in rebounding with 8.0 a contest.  TSU is 4-0 this season when Covington averages 21 or more points.

PLAYING IT CLOSE: This season, TSU is 4-2 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 5-2 this season when reaching double-figures in assists. In five 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.

HOME SWEET HOME: Last season, Tennessee State boasted a stout 11-2 record inside the Gentry Center. The Tigers' five-game win streak at home was snapped with a 77-62 loss to Middle Tennessee on Thursday, Dec. 1. However, TSU regained momentum with a 65-57 win over CMU and extended that with a 92-55 victory over LeMoyne-Owen. TSU is now 14-3 at the Gentry Center during the past two seasons.

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 84 steals and dished out 306 assists during his lofty career. So far this season, Peters has 25 assists in 12 games. He is averaging 7.6 points and 2.3 rebounds per game this year. Peters is eighth in the OVC, averaging 32 minutes played a game.

SATURDAY DELIGHT: Tennessee State is 3-0 this season in Saturday contests. The Tigers have clinched victories over Morgan State, Central Michigan and Delaware State during Saturday contests so far this season.

HERE'S A TIP: TSU's fortune has been pretty telling this season when the Tigers have won the opening tip. Tennessee State holds a 5-2 edge when they manage to grab the ball in the opening possession, compared to just 1-4 when losing the tip to an opponent.

TAKE FIVE: When Tennessee State holds a lead under five minutes, they rarely give it up. TSU is 5-1 this season when leading with five or less posted on the clock. In contrast, the Tigers are just 1-5 when trailing with less than five minutes to go. The Tigers are a perfect 6-0 when the clock is under a minute.

NO FREE GIFTS FOR YOU: During the past few games, Tennessee State has limited turning the ball over to the opposition.  The Tigers have committed less than 13 turnovers in six out of the last nine games. TSU's streak of not giving up 15+ turnovers was snapped with 16 against Central Michigan on Dec. 10.

REJECTING THE SHOTS: The Tigers are ranked second in the OVC with 3.5 blocked shots in 12 games. TSU has racked up three-plus deflections in seven straight games. Tennessee State is 4-1 when notching four or more blocks this season. Leading the way for TSU is Robert Covington with 13 blocks. The junior has recorded 10 of those 13 during the past six games. Michael Green is second on the team with 12 passes swatted away.

NEWCOMERS MAKING A DIFFERENCE: The trifecta of TSU newcomers have been very important during the first third of the season on for the Tigers. Transfers Kellen Thornton and Jordan Cyphers are averaging 8.2 and 8.1 ppg, respectively.  Meanwhile, redshirt freshman M.J. Rhett has pulled five or more rebounds in five games this season. Rhett is corralling an average of 4.5 rebounds per game, which is second on the team.

LIMITING THE OPPOSITION: Tennessee State has limited its' opposition to less than 60 points on five occasions this season. When doing so, the Tigers are 4-1. It's no coincidence, when the Tigers hold opponents below 40 percent shooting, it results in wins. TSU holds a 4-0 record when opponents bank less than 40 percent of their field goal attempts.

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