Tigers Take on Mercer in First Round of CIT
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Tigers Take on Mercer in First Round of CIT

Tennessee State participates in its' first postseason tournament since 1994 when the Tigers take on Mercer in the first round of the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament (CIT) on Tuesday evening. The Bears and Tigers tip off at 7pm ET/6pm CT at the University Center in Macon, Ga.

Tennessee State (20-12) inked its first winning season since 1995-96 and the first 20-win campaign since 1978-79. The Tigers fell in heartbreaking fashion, 54-52, to Murray State in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament Championship on March 3.

Mercer (22-11) completed an historic season, posting 22 wins. The Bears fell 62-58 to Florida Gulf Coast in the semifinals of the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament. Earlier this season, MU won nine consecutive games before dropping two out of its' last three contests.

Robert Covington leads TSU with 17.8 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. Covington is third in scoring in the league, while second in the OVC in rebounds.

Langston Hall is the Bears' leading scorer, tallying 11.5 points per game. Mercer and TSU are meeting for the first time between the two programs.

Tennessee Tech is also partaking in its' second annual CIT tournament. Austin Peay also participated in the tournament in 2009. No team from the OVC has won a postseason game in the CIT since its' inception four years ago.

Live video will be available for Tuesday's contest at CollegeInsider.com. Live stats will also be provided and can be accessed online at TSUTigers.com.

Game Notes...

SCOUTING THE BEARS: Mercer (22-11, 13-5 Atlantic Sun) reeled off one of the best seasons in school history. The Bears have lost two of its' last three games, including a tough 62-58 loss to Florida Gulf Coast in the A-Sun Semifinals. MU won a stretch of nine straight games from Jan. 9 until Feb. 10. The Bears are tallying 68.0 ppg, limiting opponents to 38.7 percent shooting (697x1801). Three Bears are averaging double figures with Langston Hall leading the way with 11.5 points per game. Jakob Gollon is boasting 10.8 points and grabbing a team-best 5.9 boards per game. Justin Cecil is also averaging 10.3 ppg.

IT'S MILLER TIME: Patrick Miller is second on the team with 10.9 ppg and leads the team with 116 assists. Miller has multiple assists in 25 straight games.  He is averaging 8.9 points, 4.7 rebounds and  3.8 assists in the last 10 games.

PLAYING IT CLOSE: TSU is 13-7 in single-digit games, having played the last 13  out of 16 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.

POSTSEASON TOURNAMENT HISTORY: Just for the third time since joining NCAA Division I, the Tigers have earned a spot in a postseason tournament. The Tigers are making their first postseason appearance since playing Kentucky (L, 83-70) in the 1994 NCAA Tournament First Round. TSU also made the NCAA First Round in 1993 when TSU dropped an 81-59 to Seton Hall. TSU last won a postseason tournament in 1959 when the Tigers defeated Pacific Lutheran, 97-87. The Tigers were the first men's basketball program on any level to win three consecutive national titles (1957, 58, 59).

THE ALL-AROUND GUY: As of Feb. 27, TSU forward Robert Covington is just one of nine players in NCAA Division I basketball to have 30 or more 3-pointers (61), offensive rebounds (94), assists (42), blocks (43) and steals (49) this season. Among the others are Keith Clanton (Central Florida), Ken Horton (Central Connecticut), Kenny Gabriel (Auburn), Jae Crowder (Marquette), LaDonte Henton (Providence), John Shurna (Northwestern), Quincy Ford (Northeastern) and Jake Koch (Northern Iowa).

CONSISTENTLY COVINGTON: The consistency of Robert Covington has been one of TSU's strongest weapons this season. He has been the leading scorer in 25 of 32 games played this season.  He added his 19th career double-double and OVC-best ninth this season with 24 points and 15 boards in the loss to Murray State on Feb. 23. Covington earned first team All-OVC honors and the CollegeInsider OVC Co-MVP. Covington garnered OVC Co-Player of the Week and College Sports Madness Mid-Major National Player of the Week honors for Feb.  12 after averaging 16.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in wins over Murray State and TTU. The Chicago product has reached double-figures in 31 straight games. Covington has collected 18 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 third in the OVC (45th NCAA) with 17.8 ppg and second in the OVC (101st NCAA) in rebounding (7.9 per game).  TSU is 13-6 this season when Covington scores 17 or more points.

WIL 'POWER' PETERS: Nashville native and Whites Creek product Wil Peters has been a mainstay for the TSU program. Peters has played in 124 games and 3,535 minutes during his four-year career. The senior has 111 assists in 32 games (3.5 apg). He has totaled 383 assists for 3.1 per game in his tenure.  On the season, Peters is averaging 7.3 points with an average of 34 minutes played per game.

A HISTORIC RISE IN THE RPI: During the past month, Tennessee State moved up 98 spots in the RPI rankings. In the rankings released on March 5, TSU moved to 110th nationally and second in the OVC.  Last season, TSU finished with an RPI of 242 and in 2009-10 finished with an RPI of 261. This season will be a jump of 150 spots in just three seasons.

LIMITING THE OPPOSITION: When TSU limits its' opposition to 45 percent or less shooting, the Tigers are a remarkable 17-2. TSU is also 15-3 when they hold opponents to less than 67 points. TSU has a 10-1 record when opponents bank less than 40 percent of their FGAs. In contrast, the Tigers are 1-8 when giving up 50 percent or more.

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.

TRIPLE THREAT: The Tigers have plenty of options when it comes to 3-point shooting. Four players have combined for 357 career made 3-pointers: Robert Covington (139), Wil Peters (126), Kenny Moore (52) and Patrick Miller (41). Covington's two treys versus Miami moved him into seventh all-time. Peter's two against the RedHawks moved him into 10th.

LINE ME UP: This season, Coach John Cooper has experimented with nine different lineups. The Tigers are 12-3 in the past 15 games with the combination of G Wil Peters, G Patrick Miller, G Jay Harris, F Robert Covington and F M.J. Rhett. TSU's only blemishes were a 69-63 road loss to Austin Peay and two losses to Murray State.

YOU GELLIN' KELLEN?: Kellen Thornton has been on fire in the past 10 contests. The Illinois State transfer is posting 11.4 ppg and 5.6 rpg. Thornton has clipped 60 percent (44-of-73) during that stretch, while grabbing  56 rebounds. He recorded his first double-double this season with 17 points and 10 boards against MSU. Thornton was named to the OVC All-Newcomer team earlier this month. 

SETTING THE MARK: Robert Covington and Wil Peters are close to reaching some career marks at Tennessee State. Covington is 18th all-time at TSU with 1,340 career points,  passing Ronnie Cage (1981-84). He is just eight shy of tying former NBA player Carlos Rogers' mark of 1,348 set during the 1992-94 seasons. Covington reached 13th on the all-time list in rebounds with 685.  Covington is seven triples away from moving into sixth all-time. Peters needs 57 points to reach 1,000 points in his career. He is 68 assists shy of becoming the all-time assists leader at TSU.

PLENTY OF KENNY MOORE: Senior Kenny Moore is averaging 8.9 ppg and 3.1 rpg in the last 10 games. The Philadelphia product has dished out 10 assists and collected 15 steals during that span. Moore is tallying 7.1 points and 3.0 rebounds in 25 games this season.

COOPER AMONG THE TSU ELITE: TSU Head Coach John Cooper's squad is just one win away from reaching 21 wins for the first time since 1973-74. He is the first TSU coach to reach 20-wins in his first three seasons since Ed Martin won 21 in his second season in 1969-70.

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.  Among those participating in the film include NBA coaching legend Phil Jackson. The crew called Live Star Entertainment recently produced a documentary for HBO called Cornered: A Life Caught in the Ring. Fans can view an exclusive preview trailer of the documentary by visiting TSUTigers.com.