Nashville, Tenn. - It took overtime, but the Tennessee State men's basketball team hung on to defeat the Colonels of Eastern Kentucky, 85-81, on "Senior Day".
Senior Kellen Thornton led the way for TSU, scoring 25 points on 9-of-13 shooting and pulling in nine rebounds.
Fellow senior Robert Covington chipped in with 13 points and tied a career-high with 16 boards, helping TSU outrebound EKU, 42-29.
Patrick Miller poured in 19 points on 5-of-11 shooting and his 11 assists were one shy of his personal best.
Guards Jay Harris (11) and Jordan Cyphers (10) each scored in double-digits for TSU (17-13, 11-5 OVC).
Thornton was the Tigers' main option to start the game, and he scored eight of his team's 10 points during the first nine minutes of action. Despite his play, TSU trailed EKU, 16-10, thanks to nine points from the Colonels' Mike DiNunno.
For the next four minutes, TSU went on a 10-0 run to take a four-point lead. Five different Tigers scored during the stretch including Miller who canned his first three of the game.
The teams traded blows for better portion of the first half, but EKU ended the period on a 12-0 run to take a 35-27 lead into the locker room. EKU's Marcus Lewis made a hoop with just tenths of a second before the horn.
TSU ended the first half with an 18-13 advantage on the boards, but the squad had 11 turnovers, leading to 16 Colonel points.
EKU scored the second half's first hoop- a three by Glenn Cosey- but the Tigers responded by scoring the next seven points to cut the Colonel lead to four.
The Tigers were still down four when Cyphers found M.J. Rhett open for a lob pass down low. The sophomore caught the ball cleanly and promptly slammed it home while drawing a foul. Rhett also scored TSU's next two baskets including another strong dunk. Despite Rhett's highlight reel plays, TSU still trailed the Colonels, 53-48, with 12:30 left in the game.
The Tigers kept chipping away at the lead and eventually tied the score at 57 when Miller made a couple of free throws at the 8:35 mark. Covington converted a layup on TSU's next possession and the home side had its first lead of the second half.
The teams went back-and-forth for the next seven minutes with neither side able to gain more than a four-point lead.
With the game tied at 68, Miller drove down the lane and kicked the ball to a wide-open Harris in the corner. Harris hit the shot and re-took the lead with 1:30 left in the game.
The Colonels responded with a three of their own, and had a chance to win the game in the waning seconds but two jumpers missed the mark, forcing overtime.
TSU trailed by one point in the overtime until Thornton and Miller both converted on circus-like up-and-unders to make the score 77-74 in favor of the Tigers.
Tennessee State never relinquished its lead and made 8-of-10 free throws down the stretch to sink the Colonels, 85-81.
With the win, TSU tied the school-records for single season wins at the Gentry Center (11) and wins over OVC opponents (11).
TSU shot 52.9 percent in the game (27-of-51) including 71.4 percent during the second half (15-of-21).
EKU attempted 42 three-point shots in the game, seven shy of the OVC all-time record for threes in a game.
The Tigers will next play on Thursday in the second round of the OVC Tournament. TSU will tip-off against either Morehead State or UT Martin at 6 p.m.