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Tigers Close Road Swing with Visit to UT Martin
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Tigers Close Road Swing with Visit to UT Martin

Tennessee State University men's basketball closes out a three-game road trip with a visit to UT Martin on Thursday, Jan. 26. Tipoff with the Skyhawks is slated for 7 p.m. at the Kathleen and Tom Elam Center in Martin.

The Tigers (11-10, 4-4 Ohio Valley) are coming off a week hiatus and a one game win streak. Last week, TSU upended Eastern Illinois, 55-46, in Charleston. The victory snapped a nine-game losing skid for the Big Blue on the road against OVC opponents.

TSU and UTM (3-18, 0-8 OVC) are meeting for the 53rd time overall the second time this season. In the previous meeting on Dec. 29, TSU had four players reach double-figures with Robert Covington leading the way. Covington notched 17 points and five rebounds in the conference-opening victory.

The Tigers lead the all-time series, 30-22, over UT Martin and have not lost at the Elam Center since a 78-65 loss on Jan. 10, 2009.

Covington leads the Tiger with 17.9 points and 8.0 rebounds per game. The junior from Bellwood, Ill., ranks fourth in the OVC and 48th nationally in scoring. In rebounds per game, Covington ranks second.

Patrick Miller is also tallying double-figures for Tennessee State. In 21 games, Miller has boasted 11.6 points and leads TSU with 75 assists and 29 steals.

Earlier this week, Kellen Thornton was named the OVC Co-Newcomer of the Week. Thornton notched 11.0 points and 6.5 rebounds in games against Austin Peay and Eastern Illinois. This season, Thornton is posting 8.0 points and 4.1 rebounds per contest.

UT Martin returns home after three straight road games, losing two of those three by single digits. The Skyhawks are averaging 62.6 points, giving up 73.9 points to opponents. From the field, UTM is shooting 42 percent (478x1145) as opponents are knocking down 51 percent (571x1125).

Leading the way for UTM is sophomore guard Mike Liabo with 15.3 point per game. Also in double-figures is freshman Myles Taylor, posting 13.0 points and 5.0 rebounds per game.

Fans can listen to the broadcast of the game on the Big Blue Network (102.1 FM The Light and 101.9 FM Clarksville) with Albert Dawson and Mark Pittman calling the action. Live stats and video are also available online at

Game Notes...

SCOUTING THE SKYHAWKS: UT Martin (3-18, 0-8 OVC) has played three straight league road games, including two losses by single-digits over the weekend at Eastern Kentucky (86-78 in double overtime) and at Morehead State (62-56).   The Skyhawks are averaging 62.6 points per game, while opponents are totaling 73.9 ppg. UTM is shooting just 42 percent (478x1145), giving up 51 percent (571x1125) to opponents. UTM has two in double figures with Mike Liabo leading the way. The sophomore guard is averaging 15.3 ppg and 4.2 rebounds per contest. Freshman Myles Taylor is boasting 13.0 points and 5.0 rebounds per game. 

IT'S MILLER TIME: Patrick Miller is second on the team with 11.6 ppg, leading the team in assists (75) and steals (29). He has reached double-digits in 15 out of the last 18 games.  Miller has multiple assists in 14 straight games.  Miller scored 17 points and made a career-high seven baskets in the loss at APSU. In the last five games, Miller is averaging 10.8 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game.

NEW YEAR, NEW RESOLUTION: TSU has not posted a winning record in the month of January since the 2007-2008 campaign. However, that mark seems to be trending upward under third-year head coach John Cooper. And this year, the Tigers are hoping that is their New Year's resolution. The Tigers posted a 4-4 mark last season. The Tigers went 1-9 in 2009-10 and 3-6 during the 2008-09 season. The Tigers notched a 6-5 record in 2007-08 under then head coach Cy Alexander.  TSU is currently 3-3.

COACHES VS. CANCER: The TSU coaching staff will wear tennis shoes on Jan. 29 with Eastern Kentucky in honor of Coaches vs. Cancer, being celebrated Jan. 27-29. 

R.C. ON A TEAR: Junior forward Robert Covington has led Tennessee State in scoring in 16 of 21 games played this season.  At Austin Peay (Jan. 16), Covington inked his 16th career double-double by tying his career-high with 30 points.  Covington also hit four treys to move to 10th all-time in made triples at TSU (119). Covington scored 11 points and picked up four boards in the win at EIU. He has reached double-figures in 20 games. 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. Covington has collected 14 20-plus point performances in his career.  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 (48th NCAA) with 17.9 ppg, is second in the OVC in rebounding (8.0 per game) and fourth in blocks (1.2 per game).  TSU is 9-5 this season when Covington scores 17 or more points.

PLAYING IT CLOSE: This season, TSU is 7-6 in single-digit games, having played the last seven 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. 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.

GIVE ME A HAND: The Tigers are just 4-8 this season when dishing out 13 or fewer assists. On the contrast, the Tigers are 7-2 when they reach 15 or more assists.  Earlier this season, the Tigers dished out 24 balls vs. LeMoyne-Owen, the most since notching 24 against Morehead State in 2005.

IT'S GREAT TO BE AT THE GENTRY: The Tigers boast an 18-3 record at the Gentry Center during the past two seasons. TSU has won five consecutive contests at home and finished with a 4-1 record against non-conference opponents at the Gentry. TSU has a six-game win streak against OVC opponents dating back to Feb. 5, 2011. The Tigers' only blemishes were losses to Belmont (2010), Murray State (2011) and MTSU (2011).  TSU has a +11.0 average scoring margin at home against opponents 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 113 games and 3,143 minutes during his four-year career. The senior has 73 assists in 20 games (3.6 apg). He has totaled 344 assists for 3.0 per game in his tenure. He set a career-high nine rebounds in the win over SIUE. During the last five games, he has dished out 18 assists.  Peters is averaging 7.9 points and 33 mpg this season.

LOOKING AT THE NUMBERS (RPI): The recent RPI ratings released on Monday, Jan. 23 gave TSU a number of 239, ranking them seventh in the OVC. TSU has faced four opponents with a top-100 RPI: North Carolina 13, Saint Louis 51, Middle Tennessee 54 and Belmont 94. TSU will also play OVC-foe Murray State twice this season, which holds a 33 RPI.

GRABBING THE BOARDS: Tennessee State leads the OVC and is 66th in the NCAA with a +4.0 rebounding margin. TSU is pulling in 35.0 rebounds off the offensive glass, while holding the opponent to 31.0 per game. Robert Covington leads TSU with 8.0 rebounds a contest, ranking second in the conference. The Tigers are 9-4 when grabbing 35+ rebounds. TSU has out-rebounded its' opponent in 11 consecutive games.

LIMITING THE OPPOSITION: When TSU limits its' opposition to 45 percent or less shooting, the Tigers are a remarkable 10-1. TSU is also 9-2 when they hold opponents to less than 67 points. TSU has a 6-0 record when opponents bank less than 40 percent of their FGAs. In contrast, the Tigers are 0-7 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 35.9 average (144-of-401). Four players have combined for 321 career made 3-pointers: Robert Covington (119), Wil Peters (117), Kenny Moore (45) and Patrick Miller (40). Covington ranks 10th all-time at TSU with 119 triples, passing former teammate Jacquan Nobles' mark of 117.

NEWCOMERS PROVIDING SCORING DEPTH: TSU newcomers have added much needed depth for the Tigers. Transfers Jordan Cyphers and Kellen Thornton are averaging 8.5 and 8.0 ppg, respectively.  Thornton was named OVC Co-Newcomer of the Week on Jan. 23 after posting 11.0 points and 6.5 rebounds in games against APSU and EIU.

MARGINALLY TELLING: Tennessee State has played in many closely contested games since the 2008-09 seasons. During that span, the Tigers are 9-22 on the road in games decided by six points or less.   In contrast, the Tigers boast a 14-2 record with that margin at the friendly confines of the Gentry Center.

RHETT MAKING NOISE: Redshirt freshman forward M.J. Rhett has made some considerable noise in the past five games. He has averaged 6.4 boards per game during that span. The Hopkins, S.C. product pulled in 10 boards against Jacksonville State and broke his season-high with 11 rebounds in the victory over SIUE. Rhett has reached double-digit rebounds in three games this season. He is averaging 4.7 rebounds per game, which ranks second on the squad.

SETTING THE MARK: Robert Covington and Wil Peters are close to reaching some career marks at Tennessee State. Covington is just 107 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 just 59 rebounds away from reaching 13th on the all-time list. The junior has corralled 600 rebounds in 83 career games played.  Peters is 128 points away from reaching 1,000 points in his career. Peters is also 105 assists shy of becoming the all-time assists leader in school history.