TSU Opens Las Vegas Invitational at South Carolina
Saturday, November 19, 2011
TSU Opens Las Vegas Invitational at South Carolina
Tennessee State University's men's basketball opens a week-long road trip on Sunday, Nov. 20 with a visit to the University of South Carolina for the opening round of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational. Tip-off for Sunday's game will be at 5 p.m. (CT). The game is televised regionally on SportSouth.

The Tigers (1-2) are coming off an 81-57 victory over Fisk in the team's home opener. Junior forward Robert Covington reached a career-high with 10 made field goals, posting a game-best 24 points in the victory. Redshirt freshman M.J. Rhett had a solid performance, pulling in a team-high 10 rebounds in the game.

TSU is looking to win back-to-back games in the month of November for the first time since 2008. The Tigers have won just three games in November since the 2009 season.

Through three games, the Tigers are shooting 35.9 percent (60x167) from the field and just 21.3 percent (10x47) from the 3-point line. TSU is out-rebounding their opponents 36.3-to-30.7 so far this season.  

South Carolina (1-1) fell 58-53 at Elon on Tuesday, Nov. 15. The Gamecocks shot just 31.3 percent from the field and were a dismal 11.1 percent beyond the arc. Freshman forward Anthony Gill has paced the Gamecocks with 14 points each in games against Western Carolina and Elon.

Sunday's game is a homecoming for most of the coaching staff. Head Coach John Cooper coached at South Carolina from 1995 until 2001 as an assistant under Eddie Fogler. Lexington, S.C., native Sheldon Everett was a two year letter-winner for the Gamecocks and helped USC to an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2004.

Meanwhile, assistant coach Rick Duckett coached under Dave Odom from 2001 until 2008. TSU Director of Operations Trey Meyer is a native of North Augusta, S.C. and played collegiately two years at Erskine College. Meyer then proceeded to spend three seasons as a student assistant at Clemson University under Head Coach Oliver Purnell.

Three TSU student-athletes have connections to the Palmetto State. Sophomore forward Michael Green is a native of Columbia and played a nearby Ridgeview High School, earning Class 3-A All-State honors. Junior guard Tashan Fredrick is a native of Hemingway and was named the 2009 Florence Morning News Player of the Year. Redshirt freshman M.J. Rhett is a native of Hopkins and was a 3-A All-State first team selection from Lower Richland High School. Rhett's father Joe played for South Carolina from 1988 until 1992, posting 1,142 points during his career as a Gamecock.

Live Stats for Sunday's game will be available online at TSUTigers.com. The game will be televised on SportSouth with Andy Demetra giving the play-by-play and Eddie Fogler with the color commentary.  

The Tigers resume action in the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational on Tuesday, Nov. 22 when TSU visits No. 1 North Carolina. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. (CT).

QUICK HITTERS

SCOUTING SOUTH CAROLINA:
South Carolina suffered a 58-53 non-conference road loss at Elon on Tuesday.  The Gamecocks shot just 31.3% in the contest, including an 11.1% mark from beyond the arc. Freshman forward Anthony Gill has led the Gamecocks in scoring in all three outings this season.  Gill tallied 14 points in both the exhibition vs. Kentucky Wesleyan and in the opener versus Western Carolina, while he and senior forward Malik Cooke both netted nine points at Elon to pace the Gamecocks.

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. 

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 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 1-2 with two losses on the road and a win at home against Fisk University.

TOUGH STRETCH:
The Tigers' next two out opponents have achieved recent success. South Carolina claimed a share of the SEC East Championship in 2009. Meanwhile, North Carolina is currently ranked No. 1 in the country and made an appearance in the Elite Eight last season.

PLAYING IT CLOSE:
With the three-point loss at Western Kentucky, TSU is 0-1 this season in single-digit 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.

STEALING IT AWAY:
In the past two games, sophomore Patrick Miller has swiped away eight balls from the opponent. His average of 2.7 steals per game ranks third in the Ohio Valley Conference. Miller has 50 steals in his career after ranking 12th in the league last season with 42 steals.

NEED FOR A RAISE:
In the first three games, Tennessee State has been held under 40 percent shooting from the field. The Tigers are shooting 35.9 percent (60x167). The 29.8 percent shooting performance at Saint Louis was the lowest performance since playing at Colorado in 2003. Perhaps the biggest problem in the first three games is TSU's struggle from the three-point arc, connecting on just 10-of-47 attempts for 21.3 percent. TSU ranked second in the OVC last season in three-point shooting (36.9 percent). The scoring performances of 37 against Saint Louis and 49 against WKU was the first time since 1950 that the Tigers were held to less than 50 points in consecutive games.

NASHVILLE'S OWN:
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 74 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 5.7 points and 2.3 rebounds per game this year.

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 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).

BARNETT'S QUEST:
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. TSU is 0-4 in the meetings at on-campus sites, but holds a 4-0 record against opponents inside Orleans Arena.

-- TSU TIGERS --