TSU Welcomes EKU for Coaches vs. Cancer Game
Friday, January 27, 2012
TSU Welcomes EKU for Coaches vs. Cancer Game
After a three-game road swing, the Tennessee State University men's basketball team returns home on Saturday, Jan. 28 to host Eastern Kentucky University. Saturday's scheduled tip-off is at 7 p.m. and is Coaches vs. Cancer/80s Night at the Gentry Center.

The Tigers (12-10, 5-4 Ohio Valley) bring a two-game winning streak to the Gentry after picking up a 72-59 victory over UT Martin on Thursday. TSU scored 25 points off turnovers, while guard Patrick Miller led the Tigers with 17 points. Miller is averaging 11.9 points and leads the Tigers with 78 assists.

Eastern Kentucky (12-10, 5-4 OVC) has lost three out of its' last five games, including a 82-65 defeat to Tennessee Tech on Thursday. The Colonels have lost five straight road games and have not picked up a road win since defeating Jacksonville State, 59-53, on Jan. 17.

From the field, EKU is shooting 44 percent (508x1156) and averaging 66.3 points per game. The Colonels are committing an average of just 11.1 turnovers this season. Eastern Kentucky is led by Jaron Jones who is averaging 16.4 points per game. Freshman Eric Stutz is the leading rebounder, notching 5.1 boards per contest.

EKU has won the last two games in the series and four out of the last five. Earlier this season, TSU dropped a 73-68 contest to the Colonels in Richmond.

Robert Covington's 11 points against UTM marked the 21st straight game for Covington to reach double-figures. The junior forward is fourth in the OVC and 48th nationally with 17.5 points per contest. Covington is second in the OVC with 7.8 rebounds and third with 1.3 blocks each game.

OVC Co-Newcomer of the Week Kellen Thornton posted 14 points and three rebounds in the win at UTM. The Chicago product is averaging 10.8 ppg in the past five contests.

The Tigers are third nationally in the Boxtorow HBCU Top-5 poll, while ranking 10th in the Dr. Cavil HBCU Top-10 Major Division I HBCU poll. TSU leads the OVC with 34.7 rebounds per game, holding opponents to just 31 rebounds.

TSU Head Coach John Cooper will participate in the annual Coaches vs. Cancer® Suits and Sneakers awareness weekend, a collaborative initiative of the American Cancer Society and the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC). The TSU staff will wear sneakers instead of dress shoes with their suits during weekend games to demonstrate their support for the American Cancer Society and its vision of a world with less cancer and more birthdays. 

Fans may support this cause by texting COACH to 20222 from any wireless phone to make a $5.00 donation toward Coaches vs. Cancer and help in the search for a cure. For more information, visit the Coaches vs. Cancer Facebook page, facebook.com/coachesvscancer. 

Fans can listen to Saturday's game on the Big Blue Network (102.1 FM The Light and 101.9 FM Clarksville) as Albert Dawson and Mark Pittman describe the action. Live stats and video will be available online at TSUTigers.com.

Game Notes...  

SCOUTING THE COLONELS: Eastern Kentucky (12-10, 5-4 OVC) has lost three out of its' last five games. The Colonels dropped an 82-65 decision to Tennessee Tech on Thursday evening. EKU has not won a road game since defeating Jacksonville State 59-53 on Jan. 17. Jaron Jones leads the Colonels with 16.4 points per game. Near double-figures is Joshua Jones (9.3 ppg) and Eric Stutz (9.0). Stutz is EKU's leading rebounder with an average of 5.0 boards. From the field, Eastern Kentucky is shooting 44 percent (508x1156) and 33 percent (154x461) from 3-point range. The Colonels are committing only 11.1 turnovers per game in 22 contests played this season.

IT'S MILLER TIME: Patrick Miller is second on the team with 11.9 ppg, leading the team in assists (78) and second with 30 steals. He has reached double-digits in 16 out of the last 19 games.  Miller has multiple assists in 15 straight games.  He tied a career-high with 17 points in the win at UTM. In the last five games, Miller is averaging 11.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg and 3.8 apg.

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.  TSU is currently 4-3 after a win over UT Martin.

TIGERS RANKED: TSU is currently ranked No. 3 in the Boxtorow HBCU Division I Poll and No. 10 in the Dr. Cavil Top 10 Poll released earlier this week. 

R.C. ON A TEAR: Junior forward Robert Covington has led Tennessee State in scoring in 16 of 22 games played this season.  At Austin Peay (Jan. 16), Covington inked his 16th career double-double by tying his career-high with 30 points.  Covington also hit four treys to move to 10th all-time in made triples at TSU (119). Covington scored 11 and inked three steals in the win at UTM. He has reached double-figures in 21 games. 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 has collected 14 20-plus point performances in his career.  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 (48th NCAA) with 17.5 ppg, is second in the OVC in rebounding (7.8 per game) and fourth in blocks (1.3 per game).  TSU is 9-5 this season when Covington scores 17 or more points.

PLAYING IT CLOSE: This season, TSU is 7-6 in single-digit games, having played the last seven contests in single margins. 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.

GIVE ME A HAND: The Tigers are just 5-8 this season when dishing out 13 or fewer assists. On the contrast, the Tigers are 7-2 when they reach 15 or more assists.  Earlier this season, the Tigers dished out 24 balls vs. LeMoyne-Owen, the most since notching 24 against Morehead State in 2005.

IT'S GREAT TO BE AT THE GENTRY: The Tigers boast an 18-3 record at the Gentry Center during the past two seasons. TSU has won five consecutive contests at home and finished with a 4-1 record against non-conference opponents at the Gentry. TSU has a six-game win streak against OVC opponents dating back to Feb. 5, 2011. The Tigers' only blemishes were losses to Belmont (2010), Murray State (2011) and MTSU (2011).  TSU has a +11.0 average scoring margin at home this season.

THE IRONMAN - WIL POWER: Nashville native and Whites Creek product Wil Peters has been instrumental in the rise of the TSU program. Peters has played in 114 games and 3,177 minutes during his four-year career. The senior has 73 assists in 22 games (3.3 apg). He has totaled 344 assists for 3.0 per game in his tenure. Miller leads the Tigers with 32 steals. During the last five games, he has dished out 16 assists.  Peters is averaging 7.9 points and 33 minutes per game this season.

LOOKING AT THE NUMBERS (RPI): The recent RPI ratings released on Monday, Jan. 23 gave TSU a number of 239, ranking them seventh in the OVC. TSU has faced four opponents with a top-100 RPI: North Carolina 13, Saint Louis 51, Middle Tennessee 54 and Belmont 94. TSU will also play OVC-foe Murray State twice this season, which holds a 33 RPI.

GRABBING THE BOARDS: Tennessee State leads the OVC and is 66th in the NCAA with a +3.7 rebounding margin. TSU is pulling in 34.7 rebounds per contest, while limiting opponents to 31.0 per game. Robert Covington leads TSU with 7.8 rebounds a contest, ranking second in the conference. The Tigers are 9-4 when grabbing 35+ rebounds. TSU's streak of out-rebounding opponents was snapped at 11 against UTM.

LIMITING THE OPPOSITION: When TSU limits its' opposition to 45 percent or less shooting, the Tigers are a remarkable 11-1. TSU is also 10-2 when they hold opponents to less than 67 points. TSU has a 6-0 record when opponents bank less than 40 percent of their FGAs. In contrast, the Tigers are 0-7 when giving up 50 percent or more.

TRIPLE THREAT: The Tigers have plenty of options when it comes to 3-point shooting. TSU ranks sixth in the OVC with a 35.9 average (144-of-401). Four players have combined for 322 career made 3-pointers: Robert Covington (119), Wil Peters (118), Kenny Moore (45) and Patrick Miller (40). Covington ranks 10th all-time at TSU with 119 triples, passing former teammate Jacquan Nobles' mark of 117.

NEWCOMERS PROVIDING SCORING DEPTH: TSU newcomers have added much needed depth for the Tigers. Transfers Jordan Cyphers and Kellen Thornton are averaging 8.3 and 8.1 ppg, respectively.  Thornton was named OVC Co-Newcomer of the Week on Jan. 23 after posting 11.0 points and 6.5 rebounds in games against APSU and EIU. He scored 14 points in the victory at UTM.

MARGINALLY TELLING: Tennessee State has played in many closely contested games since the 2008-09 seasons. During that span, the Tigers are 9-22 on the road in games decided by six points or less.   In contrast, the Tigers boast a 14-2 record at the Gentry.

RHETT MAKING NOISE: Redshirt freshman forward M.J. Rhett has made some considerable noise in the past five games. He has averaged 5.2 boards per game during that span. Rhett has reached double-digit rebounds in three games this season. He is averaging 4.7 rebounds per game, which ranks second on the squad.

SETTING THE MARK: Robert Covington and Wil Peters are close to reaching some career marks at Tennessee State. Covington is just 96 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 54 rebounds away from reaching 13th on the all-time list. He has corralled 605 rebounds in 84 career games played.  Peters is 121 points away from reaching 1,000 points in his career. Peters is also 105 assists shy of becoming the all-time assists leader at Tennessee State.

WHO WE GOT?: Tennessee State will find out on Monday, Jan. 30 who the Tigers will face in the Sears ESPN BracketBuster.

-- TSU TIGERS --