TSU Visits Eastern Illinois Thursday for OVC Tilt
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
TSU Visits Eastern Illinois Thursday for OVC Tilt

The Tennessee State University men's basketball team continues its' three-game road trip with a visit to Eastern Illinois on Thursday evening. The Big Blue and Panthers are slated for a 7 p.m. start at Lantz Arena in Charleston, Ill.

The Tigers (10-10, 3-4 Ohio Valley) are coming off a tough 69-63 setback at Austin Peay on Monday. TSU led late in the game, but a 10-4 surge for the Governors gave Austin Peay the win. TSU has now lost nine consecutive games on the road against OVC opponents, last securing a win at UT Martin (67-64) on Jan. 8, 2011.

TSU is ranked No. 5 in the recent National Boxtorow HBCU Division I Top 5 Basketball poll released on Wednesday.

Robert Covington has been the mainstay for the Tigers, averaging 18.2 points and 8.2 rebounds through 20 contests. Covington tied his career-high with 30 points and pulled in a season-best 15 boards at Austin Peay. He went 10-of-17 from the field, knocking down four triples.

The four makes behind the arch moved Covington into 10th all-time in made treys at TSU. The Bellwood, Ill., product bypassed former teammate Jacquan Nobles' mark of 117 set during the 2009-10 and 2010-11 campaigns.

In addition to Covington, guard Patrick Miller is averaging 12.0 points a contest. Miller is tied for the team lead with 28 steals and has 69 assists. During the past five games, the Chicago product is tallying 12.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists.

Nashville's own Wil Peters dished out six assists at Austin Peay and leads the Tigers with 73 this season. Peters has knocked down 30 triples and recorded 115 in his four-year career.

Eastern Illinois' (9-7, 2-2 OVC) three-game win streak was snapped on Saturday with an 80-73 loss at Southeast Missouri. The Panthers are 6-1 this season and sit in a four-way tie for fifth place in the league. The Panthers have averaged 70.9 points and shot 44.9 percent (407x907) from the field in 16 games this season.

EIU is led by senior guard Jeremy Granger, who has posted 17.0 points and 4.3 assists per game. Sophomore Alfonzo McKinnie is the squad's top rebounder, grabbing 7.4 boards a contest.

The Tigers and Panthers are meeting for 45th time on Thursday with TSU holding the 24-20 edge in the all-time series. EIU and TSU split the series last season, with both teams winning at their respective homes. TSU has not won at Lantz Arena since capturing a 74-72 win on Dec. 8, 2007.

Live video and stats for Thursday's game will be available online at TSUTigers.com. Twitter updates can also be found at TSU_Tigers.

Game Notes...

SCOUTING THE PANTHERS: 
Eastern Illinois (9-7, 2-2 OVC) had its' three game win streak snapped at Southeast Missouri on Saturday, falling 80-73.  The Panthers are 6-1 at home this year and currently sit in a four-way tie for fifth place in the OVC standings at 2-2.  EIU is averaging 70.9 points per contest and shooting 44.9 percent (407x907) from the floor. Meanwhile, opponents are totaling just 69.9 points and shooting 44.9 percent (408x908). EIU ranks second in the OVC in rebounding offense, pulling in an average of 34.4 boards a game. The Panthers are second in the league with an average of 14.6 assists each contest. Three Panthers are averaging double digits: Jeremy Granger (17.0 ppg), Alfonzo McKinnie (11.1 ppg) and Joey Miller (10.4 ppg). McKinnie is the top rebounder, corralling 7.4 boards a contest. Granger also leads EIU in assists with 4.3 per contest.

IT'S MILLER TIME: G Patrick Miller is second on the team with 12.0 ppg, tied for the the team lead in steals (28) and second in assists (69). He has reached double-digits in 15 out of the last 17 games.  He has multiple assists in 13 straight games.  Miller scored 17 points and made a career-high seven baskets in the loss at APSU. In the last five games, Miller is averaging 12.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game.

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 2-3 after wins over Morehead State on Jan. 11 and SIUE on Jan. 14.

R.C. ON A TEAR: Junior forward Robert Covington has led Tennessee State in scoring in 16 of 20 games played this season.  At Austin Peay (Jan. 16), Covington inked his 16th career double-double by tying his career-high with 30 points. He went 10-of-17 from the field and pulled in a season-best 15 rebounds. Covington also hit four treys to move to 10th all-time in made triples at TSU (119). He has reached double-figures in 19 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.  The junior 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 with 18.2 ppg, is second in rebounding (8.2 per game) and third in blocks (1.2 per game).  TSU is 9-5 this season when Covington scores 17 or more points.

GIVE ME A HAND: The Tigers are just 3-8 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 against opponents 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 112 games and 3,108 minutes during his four-year career. The senior has 73 assists in 20 games (3.6 apg). He has totaled 344 assists for 3.1 per game in his tenure. He set a career-high nine rebounds in the win over SIUE. During the last five games, he has dished out a team-best 21 assists.  Peters is averaging 7.7 points and 33 mpg this season.

LOOKING AT THE NUMBERS (RPI): The recent RPI ratings released on Monday, Jan. 16 gave TSU a number of 254, ranking them seventh in the OVC. TSU has faced four opponents with a top-100 RPI: North Carolina 15, Saint Louis 59, Middle Tennessee 67 and Belmont 84. TSU will also play OVC-foe Murray State twice this season, which holds a 29 RPI.

GRABBING THE BOARDS: Tennessee State leads the OVC and is 75th in the NCAA with a +3.9 rebounding margin. TSU is pulling in 35.0 rebounds off the offensive glass, while holding the opponent to 31.1 per game. Robert Covington leads TSU with 8.2 rebounds a contest, ranking second in the conference. The Tigers are 8-4 when grabbing 35+ rebounds. TSU has out-rebounded its' opponent in 10 consecutive games.

LIMITING THE OPPOSITION: When TSU limits its' opposition to 45 percent or less shooting, the Tigers are a remarkable 9-1. TSU is also 8-2 when they hold opponents to less than 67 points. TSU has a 5-0 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 fourth in the OVC with a 36.5 average (142-of-389). Four players have combined for 319 career made 3-pointers: Robert Covington (119), Wil Peters (115), 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 8.5 and 7.7 ppg, respectively.  Redshirt freshman M.J. Rhett is corralling an average of 4.8 rebounds per game, which is second on the team. Freshman guard Jay Harris connected on three triples and scored a season-high 12 points in the win over Morehead State.

MARGINALLY TELLING: Tennessee State has played in many closely contested OVC 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 with that margin at the friendly confines of the Gentry Center.

RHETT MAKING NOISE: Redshirt freshman forward M.J. Rhett has made some considerable noise in the past five games. He has averaged 6.0 boards per game during that span. The Hopkins, S.C. product pulled in 10 boards against Jacksonville State and broke his season-high with 11 rebounds in the victory over SIUE. Rhett has reached double-digit rebounds in three games this season.

SETTING THE MARK: Robert Covington and Wil Peters are close to reaching some career marks at Tennessee State. Covington is just 118 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 63 rebounds away from reaching 13th on the all-time list. The junior has corralled 596 rebounds in 82 career games played.  Peters is 140 points away from reaching 1,000 points in his career. Peters is also 105 assists shy of becoming the all-time assists leader in school history.

-- TSU TIGERS --