Tennessee State Visits Belmont on Tuesday
Monday, December 5, 2011
Tennessee State Visits Belmont on Tuesday

The Tennessee State Tigers men's basketball team looks to rebound on Tuesday evening, Dec. 6 with a visit to cross-town rival Belmont. Tipoff with the Bruins is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Curb Event Center.

TSU (3-5) returns to action after falling 77-62 to Middle Tennessee last Thursday. The Tigers were held to 33 percent shooting (19-of-58) from the floor.

Sophomore Patrick Miller scored a game-high 14 points in the loss. This season, Miller is averaging 10.6 points per game and leads TSU in assists (28) and steals (16). The Chicago product ranks 68th nationally with 2.1 steals a contest.

Robert Covington notched his 12th career double-double, scoring 12 points and pulling in 10 boards in the loss to the Blue Raiders. Covington's 12 points was the 48th time he had reached double-figures in his career. The Bellwood, Ill., product leads the team with 16.3 points per game and is third in the Ohio Valley Conference with 7.5 rebounds a game.

From the field, TSU is shooting 40 percent (177x448), while shooting 58-of-162 (36 percent) behind the arch. The Tigers are 0-3 this season when shooting 23.8 percent or less from the 3-point line.

Tennessee State is second in the OVC with 26 blocks and third in rebound margin (+0.4). Sophomore Michael Green swatted away three shots, while Covington had a pair of blocked shots in the loss to MTSU.

Tennessee State and Belmont are meeting for the 17th time on Tuesday. The Tigers hold a slight 9-7 advantage over the Bruins in a series that began on Dec. 13, 1975.

Belmont (5-2) has won the last five games in the series with a streak that began on Jan. 28, 1999.

Last season, TSU fell 87-72 to Belmont at the Gentry Center. Robert Covington had a game-high 18 points in the loss.

The Bruins, who rank sixth nationally in the CollegeInsider.com Top-25 Mid Major Poll, are led by junior Kerron Johnson. The guard is averaging 15.1 points, while shooting 53 percent from the floor.

Tuesday's game will be broadcast on the Big Blue Sports Network (102.1 FM The Light in Nashville and 101.9 FM in Clarksville). Live stats will also be available online at TSUTigers.com. Fans can purchase tickets by calling the Belmont Ticket Office at (615) 460-8500.

Quick Notes

SCOUTING BELMONT: Belmont (5-2) enters Tuesday with a five game winning streak after dropping close contests to nationally ranked Duke and Memphis to start the season. The Bruins have defeated their last three opponents by an average of 25 points. BU is currently ranked sixth in the CollegeInsider.com Top-25 poll (Nov. 28). Belmont is shooting 47.3 percent (211x446) from the field, while tallying 64 3-pointers in seven games. The Bruins are pulling in 38.9 rebounds, while opponents are grabbing 36.0 off the boards. BU has forced 113 turnovers (16.1 tpg), giving up just 78 (11.1 tpg) for a turnover margin of +5.0. Three Bruins are averaging double-digits with junior guard Kerron Johnson leading the way with 15.1 ppg. Mick Hedgepeth is posting 9.0 ppg and a team-best 8.1 rpg in seven contests this season.

AVOIDING THE SOPHOMORE JINX: So far this season, sophomore Patrick Miller is avoiding the sophomore slump. The Chicago product is second on the team with 10.6 points per game and leads the Tigers with 28 assists. Miller has dished out four or more assists in five games this season. He has a team-best 17 steals and is shooting 32.9 percent (23-of-70) from the floor. Miller is third in the OVC with an average of 34 minutes played per game.

NO EASY GAMES HERE: For the fourth time out of five games, Tennessee State is facing a team that is the preseason favorite to win its' respective conference. TSU fell to preseason ACC No. 1 pick North Carolina and SWAC favorite Mississippi Valley State. The Tigers knocked off the MEAC's Morgan State, 69-64 on Nov. 26. The Belmont Bruins were the preseason favorite in the Atlantic Sun.

REMEMBER DECEMBER: TSU hopes to repeat what it did a year ago. December 2010 marked one of the best finishes 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.  

PUT YOUR TRUST IN COVINGTON: Junior forward Robert Covington has led Tennessee State in scoring in five of  eight games played this season. The Bellwood, Ill., product managed his 12th career double-double last week against MTSU. He scored 12 points and pulled in 10 boards against the Blue Raiders. Covington also recorded his 48th career double-figure game in the loss. 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 ten 20-plus point games in his career. He is just 101 points away from reaching the 1,000 points club at TSU. On the season, Covington ranks fourth in the OVC with 16.3 ppg and is third in rebounding with 7.5 rpg. 

PLAYING IT CLOSE: This season, TSU is 2-2 in single-digit margins after picking up a 69-64 win over Morgan State on Saturday. 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.

MAY I HAVE A TREY PLEASE: Tennessee State has made 58 three-pointers this season. However, the Tigers are 0-3 when shooting 23.8 percent or less.  Robert Covington and Jordan Cyphers each have combined for 27 3-pointers this season. Guard Wil Peters has drained 12 triples, shooting 37.5 percent (12-of-32) from behind the arch. Covington leads TSU in 3-pt field goal percentage, banking 14-of-34 attempts for 41.2 percent this season.

NASHVILLE'S OWN: Nashville native and Whites Creek product Wil Peters has been instrumental in the rise of the TSU program the past four seasons. The stingy point guard has inked 80 steals and dished out 290 assists during his lofty career. Last season, he ranked in the top-5 in the OVC with 125 assists in 30 games played. So far this season, Peters has 19 assists in eight games. He is averaging 7.9 points and 2.0 rebounds per game this year. Peters is sixth in the OVC, averaging 33 minutes played a game.

MEMORABLE MOMENT: Just minutes before TSU's game at No. 1 North Carolina, forward M.J. Rhett got one of the biggest surprises of his life. His mother, Sgt. Stephanie Rhett stepped into the locker room to surprise her son. M.J. thought his mother was still with the U.S. Army in Iraq. However, Stephanie made her way home to watch her son play against the Tar Heels. The moment was captured on video and over 560,000 people have viewed it since it was posted on the TSUTigers.com YouTube page on Tuesday. M.J. will spend more time with his mom next week in Nashville when the Tigers host Middle Tennessee and play at Belmont.

NEWCOMERS MAKING A DIFFERENCE: The trifecta of TSU newcomers have been very important early on for the Tigers. Transfers Jordan Cyphers and Kellen Thornton are averaging 8.6 and 7.5 ppg, respectively. The tandem is shooting a combined 44.0 percent from field goal range. Meanwhile, redshirt freshman M.J. Rhett has pulled five or more rebounds in four games this season. Rhett is corralling an average of 5.4 rebounds per game, which is second on the team.

THORNTON MAKING IT COUNT: Junior Kellen Thornton is making every shot attempt count this season. The forward is shooting a team-best 54 percent (30-of-56) from the floor. He has posted double-digits in three games, including a season high 15 at then-ranked No. 1 North Carolina. Beyond scoring, the Illinois State transfer has grabbed 25 boards and dished out six assists in eight games this season.

SPREADING THE WEALTH: In the first two games of the season, TSU combined for only 16 assists. Since then, the Tigers have dished out 15 or more assists in five consecutive games. The Tigers recorded a season high 19 assists in the loss to then-ranked No. 1 North Carolina. Against Mississippi Valley, TSU had 17 assists, while inking 15 in the 69-64 win against Morgan State. Four Tigers have reached double-digit assists this season: Patrick Miller (25), Wil Peters (15), Robert Covington (12) and Jordan Cyphers (10).

BARNETT'S QUEST: Former NBA star and Tennessee State legend Dr. Dick Barnett was on campus two weeks ago in hopes of getting support from the university and Nashville community for his quest to have the 1957, 1958 and 1959 NAIA National Champion teams recognized in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Dr. Barnett was a member of three peat National Champions and went on to have an illustrious career in the NBA, most notably with the New York Knicks. A documentary film crew was also on hand, filming Barnett's quest to have the team recognized in the HOF. The crew called Live Star Entertainment recently produced a documentary for HBO called Cornered: A Life Caught in the Ring.