Coming into Sunday's contest, the Big Blue (18-10, 11-4 Ohio Valley) is riding an eight game win streak. TSU's 69-64 overtime win over Jacksonville State kept the team's streak intact. A victory over the RedHawks would tie the team's longest winning streak since 1994-95.
Miami (8-16, 4-8 Mid-American Conference) has won three of its' last five games. The RedHawks dropped a 74-59 decision to league-leading Akron on Feb. 15. Forward Julian Muvanga leads the 'Hawks with 16.8 points and 9.5 rebounds in 24 games. Brian Sullivan is also averaging double-figures with 10.6 points and a team-best 66 made triples.
Sunday marks the first time Tennessee State and Miami will meet on the hardwood. It is the fourth time the Tigers have faced a MAC opponent in the ESPN Sears BracketBusters. The Tigers previously played Ball State, Central Michigan and Northern Illinois. However, the Huskies and TSU did not actually play on the BracketBuster weekend due to a campus shooting at NIU. Earlier this season, the Tigers defeated MAC opponent Central Michigan, 65-57 on Dec. 10.
Robert Covington, the reigning OVC Co-Player of the Week and the College Sports Madness Mid-Major National Player of the Week, corralled 28 points and 12 rebounds against the Gamecocks.
The double-double was his league-best eighth of the season and 18th in his career. The junior forward moved into 19th all-time scoring at TSU with 1,274 points, passing John Barnhill and Mike Johnson. Covington needs just 27 points to move into 18th all-time.
Patrick Miller is also boasting double-figures with 11.0 points and a team-best 98 assists in 28 contests. Nationally, the Tigers are ranked No. 25 in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major poll. TSU also ranks No. 2 in the Boxtorow and Dr. Cavil HBCU polls.
Will Brown and Mark Pittman are calling the action on the Big Blue Sports Network (102.1 FM The Light/ 101.9 FM Clarksville). Live stats and video for Sunday's matchup is available online at TSUTigers.com.
SCOUTING THE REDHAWKS: Miami (8-16, 4-8) has won three out of its' last five games. On Wednesday, the RedHawks fell 75-59 at league-leading Akron. This season, Miami is averaging 61.1 points and shooting 43 percent (506x1175) through 24 games. Outside the arch, the RedHawks have knocked down 177 triples and holding opponents to just 125 makes. Miami is rebounding 30.1 per game, giving up 31.5 to opponents. Forward Julian Muvanga is posting 16.8 points and 9.5 rebounds per contest. MU's Brian Sullivan is the other double-figure points lead with 10.6 points and a team-best 66 made triples.
IT'S MILLER TIME: Patrick Miller is second on the team with 11.1 ppg and leads the team with 98 assists. He has reached double-digits in 18 games. Miller has multiple assists in 21 straight games. Miller is averaging 9.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists in the last 8 games.
FEBRUARY - THE MONTH OF GROWTH: February has been a solid month for the Tigers the past three seasons. TSU has not posted a losing record during the span. Last year, the Tigers were 4-4 and in John Cooper's first season Tennessee State managed a 5-3 mark. The Tiger's best record was 6-2 during the 2008-09 campaign. This year's 6-3 January record was the best for TSU since notching a 6-5 record in the 2007-08 season. Four straight wins in the second month has TSU at 4-0 this season.
TIGERS NATIONALLY RANKED: Tennessee State cracked the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top-25 poll, ranking 25th after a win over Murray State. The Tigers are No. 2 in the Dr. Cavil Top 10 HBCU Division I Poll and the Boxtorow HBCU Division I Poll released on Feb. 14.
CONSISTENTLY COVINGTON: The consistency of Robert Covington has been one of TSU's strongest weapons this season. He has been the leading scorer in 21 of 28 games played this season. He anchored his 18th career double-double and eight this season with 26 points and 12 boards in the OT win over Jacksonville State (Feb. 14). Covington garnered OVC Co-Player of the Week and College Sports Madness Mid-Major National Player of the Week honors after averaging 16.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in wins over Murray State and TTU. The Chicago product has reached double-figures in 27 straight games. Covington has collected 17 20-plus point performances in his career. With 17 points against UTM (Dec. 29), Covington eclipsed the 1,000 points mark becoming the first TSU player since Gerald Robinson, Jr. in 2009 to reach that milestone. On Feb. 6, Covington was announced as Boxtorow HBCU National Player of the Week. 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. This season, Covington ranks second in the OVC (40th NCAA) with 18.0 ppg and second in the OVC (87th NCAA) in rebounding (8.0 per game). TSU is 13-5 this season when Covington scores 17 or more points.
PLAYING IT CLOSE: TSU is 11-6 in single-digit games, having played the last 10 out of 12 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.
SECURING THE NO. 2 SEED: A Murray State win over SEMO on Wednesday secured the Tigers' No. 2 seed in the upcoming OVC Tournament. TSU receives a double-bye into the semi-finals. The Tigers will play on Friday, March 2 versus the winner of the No. 3 vs. No. 6/7 seed.
IT'S GREAT TO BE AT THE GENTRY: The Tigers boast a 22-3 record at the Gentry Center during the past two seasons. TSU has won 11 consecutive contests at home and finished with a 4-1 record against non-conference opponents at the Gentry. TSU has a 10 game win streak against OVC opponents dating back to Feb. 5, 2011. The Tigers' only home blemishes were losses to Belmont (2010), Murray State (2011) and MTSU (2011). TSU has a +11.2 average scoring margin at home this season.
WIL POWER: Nashville native and Whites Creek product Wil Peters has been instrumental in the rise of the TSU program. Peters has played in 120 games and 3,390 minutes during his four-year career. The senior has 96 assists in 28 games (3.4 apg). He has totaled 368 assists for 3.1 per game in his tenure. On the season, Peters is averaging 7.8 points with an average of 33 minutes played per game.
TIGERS SETS HISTORIC NIGHT WITH WIN OVER RACERS: Before the Murray State win on Feb. 9, the Big Blue was 0-10 against nationally ranked opponents in the Associated Press poll since 2002. Earlier this season, the Big Blue fell 69-102 at then ranked No. 1 North Carolina. The 72-68 win versus the Racers was the first ever win against a ranked opponent. Here is a list of opponents and results since 2002:
Feb. 9, 2012 - @#9 Murray State - W, 72-68
Nov. 22, 2011 - @#1 North Carolina - L, 69-102
Jan. 2, 2011 - @#21 Memphis - L, 86-91
Dec. 22, 2007 - @#17 Vanderbilt - L, 74-83
Dec. 3, 2007 - @#15 Indiana - L, 72-84
Dec. 2, 2006 - @#6 Alabama - L, 60-78
Nov. 21, 2006 - @#10 Kansas - L, 54-89
Jan. 2, 2005 - @#17 Louisville - L, 64-98
Dec. 18, 2004 - @#17 Alabama - L, 79-87
Dec. 6, 2003 - @#13 Georgia Tech - L, 43-94
Dec. 30, 2002 - @#20 Kentucky - L, 87-115
LOOKING AT THE NUMBERS (RPI): During the past two weeks, Tennessee State moved up 68 spots in the RPI rankings. In the rankings released on Feb. 13th, TSU moved to 141st nationally and second in the OVC. TSU has faced four opponents with a top-100 RPI: North Carolina 8, Saint Louis 23, Middle Tennessee 38 and Belmont 79. TSU defeated Murray State (54) once and will play the Racers again on Feb. 23.
GRABBING THE BOARDS: TSU ranks fourth in the OVC and is 110th in the NCAA with a +2.3 rebounding margin. TSU is pulling in 34.6 rebounds per contest, while limiting opponents to 32.3 per game. Robert Covington leads TSU with 8.0 rebounds a contest, ranking second in the conference. The Tigers are 14-4 when grabbing 35+ rebounds.
LIMITING THE OPPOSITION: When TSU limits its' opposition to 45 percent or less shooting, the Tigers are a remarkable 15-1. TSU is also 13-2 when they hold opponents to less than 67 points. The Big Blue has a 9-0 record when opponents bank less than 40 percent of their FGAs. In contrast, the Tigers are 1-7 when giving up 50 percent or more.
TRIPLE THREAT: The Tigers have plenty of options when it comes to 3-point shooting. TSU ranks fifth in the OVC with a 35.8 average (179-of-500). Four players have combined for 341 career made 3-pointers: Robert Covington (133), Wil Peters (123), Kenny Moore (51) and Patrick Miller (40). Covington's four treys versus JSU moved him into a tie with Rico Beasley and Kevin Samuels for seventh all-time. Petes is just one triple shy of moving into 10th all-time.
LINE ME UP: Coach John Cooper has experimented with nine different lineups. The Tigers hold an 10-1 record in the past 11 games with the combination of G Wil Peters, G Patrick Miller, G Jay Harris, F Robert Covington and F M.J. Rhett. The Tiger's only blemish was a 69-63 road loss to Austin Peay.
MARGINALLY TELLING: Tennessee State has played in many closely contested games since the 2008-09 seasons. During that span, the Tigers are 11-22 on the road in games decided by six points or less. In contrast, the Tigers boast a 16-2 record at the Gentry.
YOU GELLIN' KELLEN?: Kellen Thornton has been on fire in the past eight contests. The Illinois State transfer is posting 12.1 ppg and 4.9 rpg. Thornton has clipped 60 percent (34-of-57) during that stretch, while grabbing 39 rebounds. On Feb. 6, he was named OVC Newcomer of the Week after tallying 15.0 ppg and 5.5 rpg in two wins.
SETTING THE MARK: Robert Covington and Wil Peters are close to reaching some career marks at Tennessee State. Covington moved into 19th all-time with 1,274 career points passing Mike Johnson and John Barnhill. He is just 27 shy of passing Ronnie Cage's (1981-84) mark of 1,300. Covington is three rebounds away from reaching 13th on the all-time list. He has corralled 656 rebounds in 90 career games played. Covington is 12 triples away from moving into sixth all-time. Peters needs 74 points to reach 1,000 points in his career. He is 83 assists shy of becoming the all-time assists leader at Tennessee State.
PLENTY OF KENNY: Senior Kenny Moore is averaging 10.0 ppg and 4.0 rpg in the last eight games. The Philadelphia product is shooting 42 percent (24-of-57) from the field, while grabbing 12 steals and dishing out 16 assists during that span. Moore is tallying 7.4 points and 3.1 rebounds in 21 games this season.
-- TSU TIGERS --