TSU Faces Delaware State Hornets on Saturday
Friday, December 16, 2011
TSU Faces Delaware State Hornets on Saturday
The Tennessee State University men's basketball team hits the road once again with a visit to Delaware State on Saturday, Dec. 17. The Tigers and Hornets are meeting for just the third time with a scheduled tip-off at 6 p.m. (CT) in Dover, Del.

TSU (4-6) is coming off a 65-57 win over Central Michigan last weekend. The Tigers opened up to a season-long 21-point run to start the second half and never looked back in the victory.

Forward Robert Covington continues to carry the team, scoring a game-best 19 points with eight boards versus CMU. The junior is just 71 points away from reaching 1,000 in his career and is 12 made triples away from reaching TSU's top-10 list. Against the Chippewas, Covington also reached his ninth consecutive double-digit game and the 50th of his career. During the past five games, the Bellwood, Ill., product has grabbed seven or more boards in each game.

Patrick Miller reached double-figures for the seventh straight game with 11 points and four boards in 29 minutes of action. Miller is the only other Tiger averaging double-digits, posting 11.3 ppg with team-best 34 assists and 19 steals.

TSU is shooting 39.8 percent (223-of-561) from the field and is averaging 3.5 blocks per game, which ranks second in the Ohio Valley Conference.

The Tigers and Hornets met last season at the Gentry Center with TSU taking a 78-63 victory. Covington narrowly missed a double-double with 12 points and nine boards in the victory. Before last year's meeting, TSU defeated the Hornets 75-69 at the Las Vegas Invitational on Nov. 27, 2004.

Delaware State (4-5, 1-1 Mid-Eastern Athletic) has lost their last two games including a 58-42 defeat to Delaware last weekend. DSU is averaging 68.3 points per game and shooting 43.6 percent (223-of-511) from the field. Casey Walker is posting 11.8 points per game and Marques Oliver follows with 11.0 points and 7.3 rebound a game.

Fans who are unable to make the contest on Saturday, can listen to the game on the Heritage Sports Radio Network. The broadcast will be called by Gary Laing and Mike Walker. The action can be heard online through HSRN.com or Sirius XM 137. Live stats will also be available at TSUTigers.com.

Game Notes

SCOUTING THE HORNETS: Delaware State (4-5, 1-1 MEAC) has dropped two consecutive games including a 58-42 loss to Delaware last Saturday. Before that, the Hornets had won three out of four contests. DSU is boasting 68.3 ppg, while shooting 43.6 (223-of-511) from the field. The Hornets are without their leading scoring Tahj Tate (15.4 ppg), who was suspended on Dec. 7. Casey Walker is averaging double-figures with 11.8 ppg, while bringing in 4.1 rpg. Forward Marques Oliver is tallying 11.0 ppg and 7.3 rpg with a team-best 54.1 shooting percentage (40-of-74).

AVOIDING THE SOPHOMORE JINX: So far this season, sophomore Patrick Miller is avoiding the sophomore slump. The Chicago product is second on the team with 11.3 points per game and leads the Tigers with 34 assists. Miller has dished out four or more assists in five games this season. He has a team-best 19 steals and is shooting 36 percent (33-of-91) from the floor. The Chicago product has reached double-digits in seven consecutive games. Miller is third in the OVC with an average of 34 minutes played per game.  Miller led the Tigers in scoring in back-to-back games with 14 vs. MTSU and 17 at Belmont.

REMEMBER DECEMBER: TSU hopes to repeat what it did a year ago. December 2010 marked one of the best finishes 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 1-2 in the month of December. If the Tigers win out in the remaining games before the break, it will be the first time the Tigers have claimed a winning record at that point during the past eight seasons.

PUT YOUR TRUST IN COVINGTON: Junior forward Robert Covington has led Tennessee State in scoring in six of  10 games played this season. The Bellwood, Ill., product managed his 12th career double-double against MTSU. He scored 12 points and pulled in 10 boards against the Blue Raiders. Against Belmont, Covington notched 11 points and seven rebounds, earning double-digit points for the 49th time in his illustrious career. And versus Central Michigan, Covington reached a game-best 19 points and notched his 50th career double-figure game. 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 ten 20-plus point games in his career. He is just 71 points away from reaching the 1,000 points club at TSU. On the season, Covington ranks fifth in the OVC with 16.0 ppg and is fourth in rebounding with 7.5 rpg. 

LENDING A HAND: Tennessee State is 4-2 this season when reaching double-figures in assists. In all four wins this season, the Tigers have dished out at least 11 assists. The highest for the Tigers was 19 in a loss at then ranked No. 1 North Carolina.

MAY I HAVE A TREY PLEASE: Tennessee State has made 69 three-pointers this season. However, the Tigers are 2-5 when shooting 45 percent or less.  Robert Covington and Jordan Cyphers each have combined for 30 triples this season. Guard Wil Peters has drained 13 3-pointers, shooting 34 percent (13-of-38) from behind the arch. Covington leads TSU in 3-pt field goal percentage, banking 16-of-40 attempts for 40.0 percent this season.  Covington is just 12 made triples away from reaching TSU's top-10 list for made triples.

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 82 steals and dished out 296 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 25 assists in 10 games. He is averaging 8.1 points and 2.2 rebounds per game this year. Peters is tied for seventh in the OVC, averaging 33 minutes played a game.

MEMORABLE MOMENT: Just minutes before TSU's game at No. 1 North Carolina, forward M.J. Rhett got one of the biggest surprises of his life. His mother, Sgt. Stephanie Rhett stepped into the locker room to surprise her son. M.J. thought his mother was still with the U.S. Army in Iraq. However, Stephanie made her way home to watch her son play against the Tar Heels. The moment was captured on video and over 617,000 people have viewed it since it was posted on the TSUTigers.com in late November. 

NEWCOMERS MAKING A DIFFERENCE: The trifecta of TSU newcomers have been very important early on for the Tigers. Transfers Kellen Thornton and Jordan Cyphers are averaging 8.3 and 7.3 ppg, respectively. The tandem is shooting a combined 42 percent from field goal range. Meanwhile, redshirt freshman M.J. Rhett has pulled five or more rebounds in four games this season. Rhett is corralling an average of 4.8 rebounds per game, which is second on the team.

THORNTON MAKING IT COUNT: Junior Kellen Thornton is making every shot attempt count this season. The forward is shooting a team-best 52 percent (35-of-67) from the floor. He has posted double-digits in five games, including a season high 15 at then-ranked No. 1 North Carolina. Beyond scoring, the Illinois State transfer has grabbed 40 boards and dished out six assists in 10 games this season.

REJECTING THE SHOTS: The Tigers are ranked second in the OVC with 3.5 blocked shots in 10 games. TSU has racked up three-plus deflections in five out of the last six games. Leading the way for TSU is sophomore Michael Green with 11 blocks, followed by forward Robert Covington with 10.

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 five out of the last seven games. TSU's streak of not giving up 15+ turnovers was snapped with 16 against Central Michigan on Dec. 10.

BARNETT'S QUEST: Former NBA star and Tennessee State legend Dr. Dick Barnett was on campus in November 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, filming Barnett's quest to have the team recognized in the HOF. The crew called Live Star Entertainment recently produced a documentary for HBO called Cornered: A Life Caught in the Ring. 

-- TSU TIGERS --