TSU Turns Focus to Tennessee Tech on Saturday
Saturday, February 11, 2012
TSU Turns Focus to Tennessee Tech on Saturday

The celebration after an historic win had to stop quickly for Tennessee State as the Tigers host in-state foe Tennessee Tech on Saturday evening. Tip is scheduled for 7:30 p.m., which is part of a double-header and Courtside Dining Night.

The Tigers (16-10, 9-4 Ohio Valley) snatched a 72-68 win over No. 7/9 Murray State on Thursday evening. It marked the first time TSU had defeated a ranked opponent in the NCAA Division I era and their first winning season since 1995-96.

However, the Tigers are looking to split the season series with Tennessee Tech, who defeated TSU 92-86 on Jan. 5.

The Golden Eagles (16-10, 8-5 OVC) have won five out of their last seven games, but dropped a 74-57 contest to Eastern Illinois on Thursday. TTU has won two straight over the Tigers and lead the all-time series 28-to-26.

 Tennessee State is in the midst of a six-game winning streak which is the longest since winning six straight from Feb. 3 - Feb. 23, 2009.

Albert Dawson and Mark Pittman will broadcast the action on the Big Blue Network (102.1 FM The Light and 101.9 FM Clarksville). Live stats and video will be online at TSUTigers.com.

Game Notes...

SCOUTING THE GOLDEN EAGLES: Tennessee Tech (16-10, 8-5 OVC) has won five out of its' last seven games. The Golden Eagles dropped a 74-57 contest to Eastern Illinois on Thursday. On offense, TTU is averaging 73.8 points and pulling in 34.0 rebounds per game. The Golden Eagles are shooting 47 percent (662x1402), including 35 percent (135x382) behind the arch. Reigning Player of the Week Kevin Murphy is averaging 21.5 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. Murphy scored 50 points in a game last week. Jud Dillard is tallying 18.1 points and 8.6 boards in 26 games this season. 

IT'S MILLER TIME: Patrick Miller is second on the team with 11.5 ppg, tied for the team lead in assists (91). He has reached double-digits in 18 out of the last 23 games.  Miller has multiple assists in 19 straight games.  He tied a career-high with 17 points in the win at UTM. In the last five games, Miller is averaging 10.8 ppg, 3.6 rpg and 3.2 apg.

February - The Month of Growth: February has been a solid month for the Tigers the past three seasons. TSU has not posted a losing record during the span. Last year, the Tigers were 4-4 and in John Cooper's first season Tennessee State managed a 5-3 mark. The Tiger's best record was 6-2 during the 2008-09 campaign. This year's 6-3 January record was the best for TSU since notching a 6-5 record in the 2007-08 season. A 75-72 win over SEMO and a 72-68 win at Murray State gave TSU a 2-0 start to February 2012. 

TIGERS NATIONALLY RANKED: Tennessee State is currently ranked No. 3 in the Dr. Cavil Top 10 HBCU Division I Poll and No. 4 in the Boxtorow HBCU Division I Poll released for the week of Feb. 6.

CONSISTENTLY COVINGTON: The consistency of Robert Covington has been one of TSU's strongest weapons this season. He has been the leading scorer  in 19 of 26 games played this season.  Against Southeast Missouri, the junior notched his 17th career double-double and an OVC-best seventh this season with 23 points and 13 rebounds. He scored 17 points and eight rebounds in the historic upset of Murray State on Feb. 9.  Covington's three treys against the Racers moved him into ninth all-timein triples made (127). The Chicago product has reached double-figures in 25 straight games. Covington has collected 16 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. Earlier this week, 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. On the season, Covington ranks fourth in the OVC (52nd NCAA) with 17.7 ppg and second in the OVC (81st NCAA) in rebounding (8.0 per game).  TSU is 12-5 this season when Covington scores 17 or more points.

PLAYING IT CLOSE: This season, TSU is 10-6 in single-digit games, having played the last nine  out of 10 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.

FEELING THE RHYTHM: During the past five games, Tennessee State has five players averaging double figures: Robert Covington (17.2), Kellen Thornton (12.4), Kenny Moore (11.0) and Patrick Miller (10.8).

IT'S GREAT TO BE AT THE GENTRY: The Tigers boast a 20-3 record at the Gentry Center during the past two seasons. TSU has won nine consecutive contests at home and finished with a 4-1 record against non-conference opponents at the Gentry. TSU has an eight-game win streak against OVC opponents dating back to Feb. 5, 2011. The Tigers' only home blemishes were losses to Belmont (2010), Murray State (2011) and MTSU (2011).  TSU has a +11.4 average scoring margin at home this season.

THE IRONMAN - WIL POWER: Nashville native and Whites Creek product Wil Peters has been instrumental in the rise of the TSU program. Peters has played in 118 games and 3,328 minutes during his four-year career. The senior has 91 assists in 26 games (3.5 apg). He has totaled 363 assists for 3.1 per game in his tenure.  On the season, Peters is averaging 7.8 points with an average of 34 minutes played per game.

TIGERS SETS HISTORIC NIGHT WITH WIN OVER MURRAY: Before the Murray State win on Thursday, the Big Blue was 0-10 against nationally ranked opponents in the Associated Press poll since 2002. This season marked the first time since 2007-08 that TSU has played two ranked teams in the same year and the first since 06-07 that TSU will face two top-10 programs. Earlier this season, the Big Blue fell 69-102 at then ranked No. 1 North Carolina. The 72-68 win versus the Racers was the first ever win against a ranked opponent. Here is a list of opponents and results since 2002:

Feb. 9, 2012 - @#9 Murray State - W, 72-68
Nov. 22, 2011 - @#1 North Carolina - L, 69-102
Jan. 2, 2011 - @#21 Memphis - L, 86-91
Dec. 22, 2007 - @#17 Vanderbilt - L, 74-83
Dec. 3, 2007 - @#15 Indiana - L, 72-84
Dec. 2, 2006 - @#6 Alabama - L, 60-78
Nov. 21, 2006 - @#10 Kansas - L, 54-89
Jan. 2, 2005 - @#17 Louisville - L, 64-98
Dec. 18, 2004 - @#17 Alabama - L, 79-87
Dec. 6, 2003 - @#13 Georgia Tech - L, 43-94
Dec. 30, 2002 - @#20 Kentucky - L, 87-115

LOOKING AT THE NUMBERS (RPI): Tennessee State moved up 35 spots in the Feb. 6 released RPI rankings to 174th nationally and fourth in the OVC. TSU has faced four opponents with a top-100 RPI: North Carolina 7, Saint Louis 42, Middle Tennessee 45 and Belmont 90. TSU will also play OVC-foe Murray State twice this season, which holds a 39 RPI.

GRABBING THE BOARDS: Tennessee State leads the OVC and is 83rd in the NCAA with a +3.0 rebounding margin. TSU is pulling in 34.8 rebounds per contest, while limiting opponents to 31.8 per game. Robert Covington leads TSU with 8.0 rebounds a contest, ranking second in the conference. The Tigers are 13-4 when grabbing 35+ rebounds. 

LIMITING THE OPPOSITION: When TSU limits its' opposition to 45 percent or less shooting, the Tigers are a remarkable 13-1. TSU is also 11-2 when they hold opponents to less than 67 points. The Big Blue has a 7-0 record when opponents bank less than 40 percent of their FGAs. In contrast, the Tigers are 1-7 when giving up 50 percent or more.

TRIPLE THREAT: The Tigers have plenty of options when it comes to 3-point shooting. TSU ranks fifth in the OVC with a 35.5 average (168-of-473). Four players have combined for 339 career made 3-pointers: Robert Covington (127), Wil Peters (121), Kenny Moore (51) and Patrick Miller (40). Against Murray State, Covington moved into ninth all-time at TSU with 127 triples, passing Darryl Brooks' mark set during the 1986-90 campaigns.

LINE ME UP: Coach John Cooper has experimented with nine different lineups. The Tigers hold an 8-1 record in the past six games with the combination of G Wil Peters, G Patrick Miller, G Jay Harris, F Robert Covington and F M.J. Rhett. The Tiger's only blemish was a 69-63 road loss to Austin Peay.

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 15-2 record at the Gentry.

YOU GELLIN' KELLEN?: Kellen Thornton has been on fire in the past five contests. The Illinois State transfer is posting 12.4 ppg and 4.4 rpg. The Chicago product has clipped 58 percent (22-of-38) during that stretch, while grabbing  22 rebounds. On Monday, Thornton was named OVC Newcomer of the Week after tallying 15.0 ppg and 5.5 rpg in wins over Austin Peay and SEMO.

SETTING THE MARK: Robert Covington and Wil Peters are close to reaching some career marks at Tennessee State. Covington is just 21 points away from reaching TSU's top-20 list for points scored and passing Mike Johnson's mark of 1,251 points set during the 1972-76 seasons. Covington is 17 rebounds away from reaching 13th on the all-time list. He has corralled 642 rebounds in 88 career games played.  Peters is 92 points away from reaching 1,000 points in his career. Peters is also 86 assists shy of becoming the all-time assists leader at Tennessee State.

WHERE WE STAND?: Tennessee State currently sits in sole possession of second place with a win at No. 7/9 Murray State and a Tennessee Tech lost on Thursday. Southeast Missouri is currently in third place (8-4), but TSU holds the tiebreaker. TTU is in fourth (8-5), but holds a tie-breaker over TSU with a win on Jan. 5.