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TSU Looks to Carry Win Streak into OVC Action
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
TSU Looks to Carry Win Streak into OVC Action
Riding a four-game win streak, the Tennessee State Tigers men's basketball team hopes to carry that momentum into the Ohio Valley Conference opener against UT Martin on Thursday, Dec. 29. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m., following the conclusion of the Lady Tigers / Austin Peay women's basketball contest.

TSU (7-6) carried a winning record into the break for the first time since the 1994-95 campaign, after defeating Alabama A&M, 78-68, on Dec. 21. The Tigers shot 64 percent from 3-point range in the victory.  The Tigers have not won an OVC opener since defeating Southeast Missouri, 75-72, at the Gentry Center on Dec. 7, 2006.

Robert Covington led the Tigers with 18 points; making him just eight points shy of reaching 1,000 in his career. If Covington reaches that milestone, he will be the first since Gerald Robinson, Jr., accomplished that mark in 2009.

The Bellwood, Ill., product is fourth in the OVC in scoring (17.2 points per game), second in rebounding (7.7 per game) and blocks (1.4 per game). Covington has reached double-figures in 12 consecutive games this season.

Also in double-figures is sophomore guard Patrick Miller. The Chicago native has averaged 11.4 points per game and leads TSU with 46 assists and 23 steals in 13 contests this season.

Jordan Cyphers earned OVC Co-Newcomer of the Week accolades on Monday after posting 17.0 points and shooting 55 percent (11-of-20) from the field in victories over LeMoyne-Owen and Alabama A&M. Cyphers is averaging 8.6 points per game and is second on the team with 22 made 3-pointers.

The Tigers are averaging 67.4 points a contest, connecting on 42 percent (296-of-706) from the field. Behind the arch, Tennessee State is shooting 37 percent (92-of-247). In the Ohio Valley, the Tigers are second in rebounding margin (+2.4) and tied for second in blocked shots (3.7 per contest).

UT Martin (3-11, 0-1 OVC) has lost six out of its last seven contests, including a 78-54 loss at No. 22 Murray State. The Skyhawks are totaling just 61.5 points a contest and shooting 41 percent (314-of-765) form the field. UTM  opponents are finding scoring rather easily, shooting 50.8 percent (385-of-758) from the field and averaging 73.3 points a contest.

Mike Liabo leads the Skyhawks with 14.3 points a contest. Reigning OVC Freshman of the Week Myles Taylor is averaging 12.2 points and shooting 50.8 percent (60-of-118) from the field in 14 games this season.  

Live video and stats will be available online at Fans can also listen to the broadcast on the Big Blue Sports Network through 102.1 The Light FM or 101.9 FM in Clarksville. Albert Dawson will call the action, with Mark Pittman giving the analysis.

Game Notes...

SCOUTING THE SKYHAWKS: The University of Tennessee at Martin (3-11, 0-1 OVC) is coming off a 78-54 loss at No. 22 Murray State in its OVC opener on Dec. 21. The Skyhawks forced a season-high 24 turnovers, but couldn't complete a comeback despite a game-high 22 points from reigning OVC Freshman of the Week Myles Taylor. Taylor is averaging 12.2 ppg and 4.8 rpg with a 51 shooting percentage in 14 games. Mike Liabo is UTM's leading scorer, posting 14.3 ppg with 3.8 rpg. The Skyhawks are averaging 61.5 points per contest, shooting 41 percent (314-of-765) from the field. However, the Skyhawks are giving up 51 percent (385-of-758) from the field to opponents and turning the ball over an average of 17 times a game.

AVOIDING THE SOPHOMORE JINX: There's no such thing as the sophomore slump for sophomore Patrick Miller. The Chicago product is second on the team with 11.4 ppg and leads the Tigers with 46 assists. He has a team-best 23 steals and is shooting 39 percent (43-of-110) from the field. The Chicago product has reached double-digits in eight out of the last nine games.

REMEMBER DECEMBER: TSU hopes to repeat what it did a year ago. December 2010 marked one of the best months for the Tigers in recent memory. Tennessee State posted a 5-2 record during that span, including a five-game win streak that stretched from Dec. 4 until Dec. 21. TSU's only losses during that month were at Eastern Illinois (67-68) and at Middle Tennessee (58-65). The Tigers were a perfect 3-0 at the Gentry Center last December. This season, the Tigers are 4-2 in the month of December. If the Tigers win against UT Martin, it will be the first time TSU has won an OVC opener since defeating Southeast Missouri, 75-72, on Dec. 7, 2006.

PUT YOUR TRUST IN COVINGTON: Junior forward Robert Covington has led Tennessee State in scoring in nine of  13 games played this season. The Bellwood, Ill., product managed his 14th career double-double with 21 points and 11 boards versus LeMoyne-Owen.  He reached his 12th consecutive  double-digit point performance and his 53rd overall with a team-best 18 points in the win over Alabama A&M.  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.  Covington has collected 12 20-plus point performances in his career. He is just eight points away from reaching the 1,000 points club at TSU. On the season, Covington ranks fourth in the OVC with 17.2 ppg and is second in rebounding (7.7 per game) and blocks (1.4 per game).  TSU is 6-1 this season when Covington scores 18 or more points.

LENDING A HAND: TSU is 6-2 this season when reaching double-figures in assists. In six 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 15-3 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 three contests at home and finishing 4-1 against non-conference opponents at home.

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 85 steals and dished out 312 assists during his lofty career. So far this season, Peters has 41 assists in 13 games. He is averaging 7.6 points and 2.5 rebounds per game this year. 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 6-2 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 6-1 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 7-0 when the clock is under a minute.

GRABBING THE BOARDS: Tennessee State ranks first in the OVC in rebounding offense, pulling in 34.8 boards per game. TSU is third in rebounding defense with an average of 32.5 a contest and ranks second  only behind Murray State with a +2.4 rebounding margin. Robert Covington leads TSU with 7.7 rebounds a contest, ranking second in the Ohio Valley.

REJECTING THE SHOTS: The Tigers  tied for second in the OVC with 3.7 blocked shots in 13 games. TSU has racked up three-plus deflections in eight straight games. 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.

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 10.4 points a game. He is 17-of-40 (42.5) from the field and has knocked nine 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.