NASHVILLE --- The Tennessee State Tigers will make the short trip to Memorial Gymnasium on Wednesday night (Dec. 10) to face the Vanderbilt Commodores who are off to an impressive start to begin the 2003-04 season.
The Tigers and Commodores will meet for the first time since 1997 and for just the fourth time overall when the teams get together. Vanderbilt is off to a 5-0 start, the Commodores best start in four seasons and the unbeaten mark includes home court wins over Big Ten Conference members Indiana and Michigan.
The Tigers are being led by first-year Head Coach Cy Alexander. TSU is 1-4 in the first year of the veteran coach's rebuilding efforts at TSU.
TSU saw a couple of big first-half leads evaporate in home games last week against Southern Conference power Chattanooga and then against rival Fisk University. The Tigers had led Chattanooga by as many as 17 points in the first half before dropping a 93-86 decision to the Mocs. TSU then held an 11-point advantage over Fisk at halftime before the Bulldogs left Gentry Center with a 65-63 victory.
On Saturday, the Tigers faced another team off to an impressive start in Georgia Tech. The Tigers were tied 8-8 eight minutes into the game but TSU went scoreless for more than eight minutes while Tech scored 15 unanswered points. Tech has already knocked off then top-ranked Connecticut and followed with a win over Texas Tech in the Preseason NIT.
The Tigers have been plagued by play in the second half that has seen opponents shoot better than 70 percent from floor (55-78). The Tigers also have been hurt at the free throw line where they are converting .595 percent.
Junior forward Roshaun Bowens is fourth in the OVC in scoring at 17.6 pp and ninth in field percentage (.600). Freshman guard Bruce Price leads the league in steals at 3.20 spg.
Senior guard Garrett Richardson, the OVC's active leader in both assists and steals is tied for second in assists (5.20 apg) and tied for sixth in steals (2.00 spg). Richardson averages 13.2 ppg, tied for 15th place in the conference.
Vanderbilt is led by Matt Freije, the Southeastern Conference's Preseason Player of the Year. The 6-10, 249-pound player averages 21.0 ppg and leads a strong inside game that out-rebounds opponents by almost 13 boards a game after five games.
The Tigers short drive to Vanderbilt is part of a six-game road swing in December. TSU plays at Alabama A&M Friday night.