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Tennessee State Battles SEMO in Crucial OVC Matchup
Friday, February 3, 2012
Tennessee State Battles SEMO in Crucial OVC Matchup
Saturday kicks off the final Ohio Valley Conference road swing for Tennessee State men's basketball as the Tigers face second place Southeast Missouri in a critical conference tilt at the Show Me Center. Tip-off with the Redhawks is slated for 7:30 p.m.

The Big Blue (14-10, 7-4 OVC) sits in a tie for third with Tennessee Tech. The Tigers have won four consecutive games, including a 77-57 demolition of Austin Peay on Jan. 30. Next Thursday, Feb. 9, TSU will travel to No. 9 Murray State.

Monday evening's win over Austin Peay tied Coach John Cooper's most wins in a season at 14. The Tigers are just two wins shy of inking their first winning season since 1995-96.

Robert Covington leads the Tigers with 17.5 points and 7.8 rebounds a game. The junior forward is third in the conference/54th nationally in scoring, while ranking second in rebounds.

Sophomore guard Patrick Miller is also posting double-figures, scoring 11.7 points a contest. Miller is in a tie for the team lead in assists (85) and steals (34).

Southeast Missouri (12-10, 7-3 OVC) has won four out of the past six games. On Thursday, the Redhawks fell 81-73 at No. 9 Murray State. The Redhawks are led offensively by sophomore Tyler Stone with 14.9 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.

TSU holds a 22-17 edge in the series with SEMO, winning six out of the last seven games. Last season, the Tigers swept the series.

Albert Dawson and Mark Pittman are calling the action on the Big Blue Sports Network (102.1 FM The Light/101.9 FM Clarksville). Fans can access live stats and video online at

Game Notes...
SCOUTING THE REDHAWKS:  Southeast Missouri (12-10, 7-3 OVC) has won four out of the last six games. The Redhawks fell 81-73 at No. 9 Murray State on Thursday evening. Under third year head coach Dickey Nutt, SEMO has surpassed its' win total of 10 from last season. Offensively, Southeast Missouri is averaging 70.7 points, shooting a league best 49 percent (559x1131) from the field. The Redhawks will also pose a threat from the boards, ranking second behind TSU with a +2.6 rebound margin. Sophomore Tyler Stone leads the Redhawks with 14.9 ppg and 7.3 rpg. Big man Leon Powell is posting 11.6 ppg with a 65 shooting clip (95x146). Guard Marland Smith has 12.1 ppg and 58 assists in 22 games this season.

IT'S MILLER TIME: Patrick Miller is second on the team with 11.7 ppg, tied for the team lead in assists (85) and steals (34). He has reached double-digits in 17 out of the last 21 games.  Miller has multiple assists in 17 straight games.  He tied a career-high with 17 points in the win at UTM. In the last five games, Miller is averaging 11.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg and 3.5 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.

TIGERS NATIONALLY RANKED: Tennessee State is currently ranked No. 3 both in the Boxtorow HBCU Division I Poll and in the Dr. Cavil Top 10 Poll released for the week of Jan. 31.

CONSISTENTLY COVINGTON: The consistency of Robert Covington has been one of TSU's strongest weapons this season. He has been the leading scorer in 17 of 24 games played this season.  At Austin Peay (Jan. 16), Covington inked his 16th career double-double by tying a career-high with 30 points.  Covington also hit four treys to move to 10th all-time in made triples at TSU (119). The Chicago product notched 22 points and eight rebounds in the win vs. EKU. He has reached double-figures in 23 straight games. 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. Covington has collected 15 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 (54th NCAA) with 17.5 ppg, is second in the OVC (98th NCAA) in rebounding (7.8 per game) and third in blocks (1.3 per game).  TSU is 10-5 this season when Covington scores 17 or more points.

PLAYING IT CLOSE: This season, TSU is 8-6 in single-digit games, having played the last seven  out of eight 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.

PASS THE ROCK: The Tigers are just 5-8 this season when dishing out 13 or fewer assists. On the contrast, the Tigers are 9-2 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 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 116 games and 3,258 minutes during his four-year career. The senior has 85 assists in 24 games (3.5 apg). He has totaled 356 assists for 3.1 per game in his tenure. During the last five games, he has dished out 18 assists.  On the season, Peters is averaging 8.0 points with an average of 34 minutes played per game, making him fifth in the OVC.

LOOKING AT THE NUMBERS (RPI): Tennessee State moved up 20 spots in the Jan. 30 released RPI rankings to 209th nationally and sixth in the OVC. TSU has faced four opponents with a top-100 RPI: North Carolina 9, Saint Louis 42, Middle Tennessee 47 and Belmont 96. 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 71st in the NCAA with a +3.7 rebounding margin. TSU is pulling in 34.8 rebounds per contest, while limiting opponents to 31.0 per game. Robert Covington leads TSU with 7.8 rebounds a contest, ranking second in the conference. The Tigers are 11-4 when grabbing 35+ rebounds. 

LIMITING THE OPPOSITION: When TSU limits its' opposition to 45 percent or less shooting, the Tigers are a remarkable 12-1. 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 sixth in the OVC with a 35.2 average (158-of-449). Four players have combined for 329 career made 3-pointers: Robert Covington (122), Wil Peters (120), Kenny Moore (47) and Patrick Miller (40). Covington ranks 10th all-time at TSU with 122 triples and is just two shy of tying Darryl Brooks' 124 made triples, which ranks ninth.

WHERE DO WE STAND?: TSU (7-4 OVC) is currently tied for third in the OVC, sitting behind No. 9 Murray State (10-0) and SEMO (7-3). The Tigers are tied with Tennessee Tech, but the Golden Eagles currently hold the tiebreaker after beating TSU on Jan. 5.

LINE ME UP: This season, Coach John Cooper has experimented with nine different lineups. His latest  tweak seems to be working. The Tigers hold a 6-1 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 9-22 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 13.0 ppg and 5.0 rpg. The Chicago product has clipped 57 percent (24-of-44) during that stretch, while grabbing six steals. Thornton has reached double-digits in 11 games, including the past four games.

SETTING THE MARK: Robert Covington and Wil Peters are close to reaching some career marks at Tennessee State. Covington is just 61 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 38 rebounds away from reaching 13th on the all-time list. He has corralled 621 rebounds in 86 career games played.  Peters is 101 points away from reaching 1,000 points in his career. Peters is also 93 assists shy of becoming the all-time assists leader at Tennessee State.

WHO WE GOT? : Tennessee State will face the Mid-American Conference's Miami (6-14, 2-6) in the ESPN Sears BracketBuster on Sunday, Feb. 19. The Tigers are 1-0 against the MAC this season as TSU defeated Central Michigan 65-57 on Dec. 10. Coach John Cooper is 1-2 all-time against MAC opponents.