Tigers Open OVC Road Slate at EKU
Friday, December 30, 2011
Tigers Open OVC Road Slate at EKU
Tennessee State hopes to close out the year with a positive note, as the Tigers carry a five-game win streak to Eastern Kentucky on Saturday, Dec. 31. The Colonels and Tigers square off in a 1 p.m. (CT) contest at the Paul S. McBrayer Arena in Richmond, Ky.

After an 83-67 win over UT Martin on Thursday, TSU (8-6, 1-0 Ohio Valley) has caught fire offensively. The Tigers have shot 55 percent or higher from the field in the past three contests, including a season-best 56.1 (32-of-57) against the Skyhawks.

The five-game win streak is tied for the most under third year Head Coach John Cooper. The Tigers previously won five straight from Dec. 4 to Dec. 21, 2010. A win on Saturday would be the first time TSU has started the OVC slate 2-0 since the 2006-07 campaign under then Head Coach Cy Alexander.

Junior forward Robert Covington scored a team-high 17 points, earning his 1,000-point club membership. Covington now has 1,009 points in his career, becoming the first since Gerald Robinson, Jr. in 2009 to reach that milestone.

Covington leads TSU with 17.1 points and 7.5 rebounds per game in 14 contests. He also has reached double-digits in 13 consecutive contests.

Sophomore guard Patrick Miller has been outstanding for TSU, averaging 11.5 points per game. The Chicago product has dished out multiple assists in seven straight games.

TSU has a few others on recent hot streaks. Redshirt junior Jordan Cyphers is averaging 11.4 points per game, while Bob Cousy Award candidate Wil Peters has dished out a team-best 27 assists in the past five contests.

The Tigers are averaging 68.5 points per game, shooting 43 percent (328x763) from the field. TSU is second in the league with a 37.1 3-point percentage and is third with 34.9 rebounds a contest.

EKU (8-6, 2-0 OVC) has won five out of its' last six games, including a 67-65 win over Austin Peay. The Colonels are shooting 43 percent (320x739), but limiting opponents to just 62.7 points a contest.

Senior Jaron Jones leads the Colonels with 13.9 points a contest. Three other Colonels are near double-figures: Joshua Jones (9.6), Eric Stutz (9.5) and Mike DiNunno (9.5).

The Colonels hold a slight 26-23 advantage in the series, including a three-game win streak in Richmond. TSU's last victory was 89-70 over EKU on March 1, 2008. Last season, the Colonels defeated the Big Blue, 86-72, at McBrayer Arena. During the past three games in Richmond, EKU has shot over 50 percent from the field.

Live stats and video of Saturday's afternoon matinee will be available online at TSUTigers.com.

Game Notes ...

SCOUTING THE COLONELS: Eastern Kentucky (8-6, 2-0 OVC) has won five out of its' last six games, including a 67-65 win over Austin Peay on Thursday. The Colonels are shooting 43 percent (320x739) from the field and averaging 64.9 points per game in 14 contests this season. The Colonels are considered a defensive-minded team, ranking second in the league in scoring defense; giving up just 62.7 ppg. The Colonels have limited turnovers a well, just giving up 10.9 per game. In the steals category, EKU is third in the OVC with 7.9 swipes per game. Jaron Jones is the only player in double figures with 13.9 ppg. Joshua Jones (9.6), Eric Stutz (9.5) and Mike DiNunno (9.5) carry the remaining load for the Colonels. Stutz is the leading board hog for EKU, grabbing 5.3 rebounds a contest. In the previous three meetings against TSU in Richmond, EKU has not shot less than 50 percent from the field.

AVOIDING THE SOPHOMORE JINX: There's no such thing as the sophomore slump for Patrick Miller. The Chicago product is second on the team with 11.5 ppg and leads the Tigers with 49 assists. He has a team-best 25 steals and has reached double-digits in 10 out of the last 11 games.  He has multiple assists in 7 straight games.

DECEMBER TO REMEMBER: TSU is on the brink of repeating what they did in December 2010. Tennessee State posted a 5-2 record during that span, including a five-game win streak that stretched from Dec. 4 until Dec. 21. This season, the Tigers are 5-2 in the month of December. The current five-game win streak matches Coach Cooper's longest in his three year tenure. If the Tigers win against Eastern Kentucky on Saturday, it will be the first time TSU has started the OVC slate 2-0 since defeating Southeast Missouri (75-72) and Eastern Illinois (59-56) to open the 2006-07 Ohio Valley Conference campaign.

PUT YOUR TRUST IN COVINGTON: Junior forward Robert Covington has led Tennessee State in scoring in 10-of- 14 games played this season.   With 17 points against UTM, Covington eclipsed the 1,000 points mark becoming the first TSU player since Gerald Robinson, Jr. in 2009 to reach that milestone. He also reached his 13th consecutive double-digit point performance and his 54th overall. 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. The Bellwood, Ill., product recorded his 14th career double-double with 21 points and 11 boards versus LeMoyne-Owen. Covington has collected 12 20-plus point performances in his career. On the season, Covington ranks fifth in the OVC with 17.1 ppg, is fourth in rebounding (7.5 per game) and second in blocks (1.3 per game).  TSU is 7-2 this season when Covington scores 17 or more points.

PLAYING IT CLOSE: This season, TSU is 4-2 in single-digit margins after picking up a 65-57 win over Central Michigan on Dec. 10 and a 59-55 victory at Delaware State on Dec. 17. The 2010-11 season saw the Tigers play 18 of their 30 games, including three overtime games, in tight-nit fashion. TSU finished 9-9 in those games, 2-1 with an extra session. Ten games in a 12-game stretch from Dec. 19 (Morehead State) to Feb. 7 (Jacksonville State) all finished with less than ten points deciding the outcome.

LENDING A HAND: TSU is 7-2 this season when reaching double-figures in assists. In seven wins this season, the Tigers have dished out at least 11 assists. The highest for the Tigers was 24 vs. LeMoyne-Owen, the most since notching 24 against Morehead State in 2005.

NOTHING LIKE HOME: The Tigers now boast a 16-3 record at the Gentry Center during the past two seasons. The Tigers' five-game win streak at home was snapped earlier this season when Middle Tennessee defeated the Tigers, 77-62. The Tigers have since regained momentum winning the next four contests at the friendly confines and finishing with a 4-1 record against non-conference opponents at the Gentry.

WIL POWER: Nashville native and Whites Creek product Wil Peters has been instrumental in the rise of the TSU program the past four seasons. He was recently announced as a candidate for the  prestigious  Bob Cousy Award, which goes to the nation's top collegiate point guard. The stingy guard has inked 86 steals and dished out 319 assists during his lofty career.  So far this season, Peters has 48 assists in 14 games. During the last five games, he has dished out a team-best 27 assists. Peters is averaging 7.9 ppg.  Peters is tied for seventh in the OVC, averaging 32 minutes played a game. 

SATURDAY DELIGHT: Tennessee State is 3-0 this season in Saturday contests. The Tigers have clinched victories over Morgan State, Central Michigan and Delaware State during Saturday contests so far this season.

HERE'S A TIP: TSU's fortune has been pretty telling this season when the Tigers have won the opening tip. Tennessee State holds a 7-2 edge when they manage to grab the ball in the opening possession, compared to just 1-4 when losing the tip to an opponent.

TAKE FIVE: When Tennessee State holds a lead under five minutes, they rarely give it up. TSU is 7-1 this season when leading with five or less posted on the clock. In contrast, the Tigers are just 1-5 when trailing with less than five minutes to go. The Tigers are a perfect 8-0 when the clock is under a minute.

GRABBING THE BOARDS: Tennessee State ranks third in the OVC in rebounding offense, pulling in 34.9 boards per game. TSU is also third in rebounding defense with an average of 32.1 a contest and ranks second  only behind Murray State with a +2.7 rebounding margin. Robert Covington leads TSU with 7.5 rebounds a contest, ranking fourth in the Ohio Valley. The Tigers are 6-1 when grabbing 35+ rebounds.

REJECTING THE SHOTS: The Tigers are tied for third in the OVC with 3.6 blocked shots in 13 games. TSU's streak of three-plus deflections in eight straight games was snapped against UTM on Dec. 29. Tennessee State is 5-1 when notching four or more blocks this season. Leading the way for TSU is Robert Covington with 18 blocks. The junior has recorded 15 of those 18 during the past seven games. Michael Green is second on the team with 12 passes swatted away.

NEWCOMERS MAKING A DIFFERENCE: The trifecta of  TSU newcomers have been very important during the mid-way point of the season for the Tigers. Transfers Jordan Cyphers and Kellen Thornton are averaging 8.7 and 8.3 ppg, respectively.  Meanwhile, redshirt freshman M.J. Rhett has pulled five or more rebounds in six games this season. Rhett is corralling an average of 4.6 rebounds per game, which is second on the team.

CYPHERS STEPPING UP STRONG: During the past five games, Jordan Cyphers has made an immediate impact for the Tigers. The transfer from Utah is averaging 11.4 points a game. He is 18-of-38 (47.4) from the field and has knocked down 10 three-pointers during that stretch. The Wichita, Kan., native garnered his first OVC honor (Dec. 26), earning Co-Newcomer of the Week. He posted 17.0 ppg and made 55 percent (11-of-20) from the field in victories over LeMoyne-Owen and Alabama A&M.

LIMITING THE OPPOSITION: When Tennessee State limits its' opposition to 45 percent or less, the Tigers are a remarkable 8-1. TSU is also 7-1 when they hold opponents to less than 67 points. TSU holds a 4-0 record when opponents bank less than 40 percent of their field goal attempts.