Nashville, Tenn. - After finally beating Morehead State for the first time in three tries, the Tennessee State men's basketball team turns its focus to a 6 p.m. tip-off versus cross-town rival and No. 1 seed Belmont on Friday.
The Tigers and Bruins split the season series 1-1, but TSU got the better of BU in the teams' last meeting on Feb. 14 in the Gentry Center.
In that game, Tennessee State held Belmont to a season-low 19 percent from the three-point line in an 80-69 victory.
TSU's victory was its first against Belmont since 1987- before the Bruins became members of Division I.
Robert Covington led the Tigers with 25 points on 7-of-9 shooting. He also made 3-of-4 from outside the three-point line and all eight of his free throws. His 25 were his most since Dec. 16 against Lemoyne-Owen.
Cyphers also performed well in the teams' first meeting this year, pouring in a career-high 23 points in a loss to the Bruins. He tied his career mark against Morehead State in TSU's last game and has now scored in double-digits in 13 of his team's last 14 contests.
TSU advanced to today's semi-final by beating Morehead State, 88-75, on Thursday night. Scoring over 70 points has been big for Tennessee State this season as they are 13-2 when breaking that barrier.
The Tigers have their work cut out for them in today's matchup as Belmont enters as the OVC's top scoring defense, allowing opponents a paltry 63.6 points per game. They also enter with the OVC's best record at 24-6 overall and 14-2 against league opponents.
The Bruins are paced by the conference's co-MVP and defensive player of the year Ian Clark and fellow All-OVC Nominee Kerron Johnson. The duo has combined to average 31.6 points per game and a total of 100 steals.
They have also led Belmont to the league's top spot in scoring offense, field goal percentage, steals, and assists. If the Bruins do have a weakness it is on the boards where they are -0.5 in rebounding margin. TSU, meanwhile, is +2.8 on the glass.
Tennessee State is 8-10 all-time against Belmont and the winner of today's ESPNU televised matchup will secure a spot in the OVC Championship Game.