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Tigers vs. Murray State Rematch Slated for Thursday
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Tigers vs. Murray State Rematch Slated for Thursday
The much anticipated rematch of No. 12/14 Murray State and Tennessee State takes place on Thursday, Feb. 23 when the Racers visit the Gentry Center. MSU and the Tigers are scheduled for a 7 p.m. tipoff in a nationally televised game on ESPNU.

Tennessee State (19-10, 11-4 Ohio Valley) is in the midst of its' longest winning streak since 1994-95. The Tigers are just one win away from reaching 20 wins for the first time since 1978-79.

The Tigers clawed back from a 12 point deficit to defeat Miami (Ohio) 68-61 in the Sears BracketBuster on Feb. 19. Junior Robert Covington led the Tigers with 14 points and six boards. Covington ranks fourth in the OVC with 17.9 points and second with 7.9 rebounds per game.

Kellen Thornton garnered his third OVC Newcomer of the Week honor after averaging 10.5 points and 3.5 rebounds in wins over Jacksonville State and Miami (Ohio) last week.

For the first time in school history, TSU ranks No. 25 in the Mid-Major Top-25 poll. The Big Blue is also No. 1 in the Boxtorow HBCU Top-5 Division I poll. Last week, the Tigers clinched the No. 2 seed in the OVC Tournament. TSU is scheduled to play on Friday, March 2 at 8 p.m. inside Nashville's Municipal Auditorium.

Murray State's (26-1, 13-1 OVC) only blemish is a 72-68 loss to the Tigers on Feb. 9. TSU won their first regulation game at Murray State since 1996. The Tigers have not swept the Racers since the 1993 season when the Tigers made an NCAA appearance against Seton Hall.

After that loss, the Racers have won three straight and clinched the OVC regular season title. MSU defeated Saint Mary's, 65-61, in the Sears BracketBusters. Point guard Isaiah Canaan leads the Racers with 14 points, 102 assists and 84 triples.

Thursday evening will be Greek Night and Senior Day. The Tigers men's basketball team will honor its' two seniors - Wil Peters and Kenny Moore.

Limited amount of general admission tickets are still available for Thursday evening's game. TSU students with a valid I.D. receive one free ticket. All students are strongly encouraged to pick up their tickets from the TSU Ticket Office inside the Gentry Center. The public may purchase tickets by calling the ticket office at (615) 963-5841.

Anish Shroff and Adrian Branch are calling the action on ESPNU. TSU fans can listen to the game on the Big Blue Sports Network (102.1 FM The Light / 101.9 FM Clarkville) with Albert Dawson and Mark Pittman describing the plays.  

Game Notes...

SCOUTING THE RACERS: No. 12/14 Murray State (26-1, 13-1 OVC) has been one of the hottest teams in the country. The Racers' only blemish was a 72-68 loss to the Tigers on Feb. 9 at the CFSB Center. Since that defeat, Murray has reeled off three consecutive victories. Last week, the Racers clinched the OVC regular season championship and defeated No. 21 Saint Mary's, 65-51, in the ESPN Sears BracketBusters. Point guard Isaiah Canaan leads the Racers with 19.3 points. The junior has dished out 102 assists and knocked down 84 triples in 27 games. Donte Poole has posted 14 points, while Ivan Aska has totaled nearly 12 a game this season. Aska and Latreze Mushatt are averaging 5.9 and 5.2 rebounds per game, respectively. The Racers have outscored their opponents 13.3 points per game and shot 41 percent (203x492) behind the arch. MSU is shooting nearly 48 percent (676x1422).

IT'S MILLER TIME: Patrick Miller is second on the team with 11.2 ppg and leads the team with 101 assists. Miller has multiple assists in 22 straight games.  He is averaging 9.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists in the last 9 games.

FEBRUARY - CONTINUING TO RISE: TSU has not posted a losing record in February the last three seasons. 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. With a win at Miami (Ohio) on Feb. 19, TSU is 5-0 this month.

TIGERS NATIONALLY RANKED: TSU remained No. 25 in the CollegeInsider Mid-Major Top-25 poll. The Tigers are No. 1 in the the Boxtorow HBCU Division I poll released on Feb. 21.

CONSISTENTLY COVINGTON: The consistency of Robert Covington has been one of TSU's strongest weapons this season. He has been the leading scorer in 22 of 29 games played this season.  He anchored his 18th career double-double and eight this season with 26 points and 12 boards in the OT win over Jacksonville State (Feb. 14). Covington garnered OVC Co-Player of the Week and College Sports Madness Mid-Major National Player of the Week honors after averaging 16.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in wins over Murray State and TTU. The Chicago product has reached double-figures in 28 straight games. Covington has collected 17 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. On Feb. 6, 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. This season, Covington ranks fourth in the OVC (43rd NCAA) with 17.9 ppg and second in the OVC (93rd NCAA) in rebounding (7.9 per game).  TSU is 13-5 this season when Covington scores 17 or more points.

PLAYING IT CLOSE: TSU is 12-6 in single-digit games, having played the last 11 out of 13 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.

SECURING THE NO. 2 SEED: A Murray State win over SEMO last week secured the Tigers' No. 2 seed in the upcoming OVC Tournament. TSU receives a double-bye into the semi-finals. The Tigers will play on Friday, March 2 versus the winner of the No. 3 vs. No. 6/7 seed.

IT'S GREAT TO BE AT THE GENTRY: The Tigers boast a 22-3 record at the Gentry Center during the past two seasons. TSU has won 11 consecutive contests at home and finished with a 4-1 record against non-conference opponents at the Gentry. TSU has a 10 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 +11.2 average scoring margin at home this season.

SENIOR PROFILE - WIL 'POWER' PETERS: Nashville native and Whites Creek product Wil Peters plays his final home game on Thursday. Peters has played in 121 games and 3,427 minutes during his four-year career. The senior has 99 assists in 29 games (3.4 apg). He has totaled 371 assists for 3.1 per game in his tenure.  On the season, Peters is averaging 7.7 points with an average of 34 minutes played per game.

TIGERS SETS HISTORIC NIGHT WITH WIN OVER MURRAY: Before the Murray State win on Feb. 9, the Big Blue was 0-10 against nationally ranked opponents in the Associated Press poll since 2002. 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

MOVING ON UP (A LOOK AT THE RPI): During the past three weeks, Tennessee State moved up 82 spots in the RPI rankings. In the rankings released on Feb. 20th, TSU moved to 127th nationally and second in the OVC. TSU has faced four opponents with a top-100 RPI: North Carolina 5, Saint Louis 22, Middle Tennessee 38 and Belmont 68. TSU defeated Murray State (35) once and will play the Racers again Thursday evening.

COACH COOPER STEPPING 'ON THE LINE': The Black Coaches & Administrators (BCA) and ON THE LINE have teamed up during Black History Month to raise awareness of prostate cancer among African American men. Coach John Cooper and over 80 NCAA Division 1 Men's Basketball head coaches from 30 different conferences, will be wearing bow ties and ON THE LINE buttons during their games to show their support.

LIMITING THE OPPOSITION: When TSU limits its' opposition to 45 percent or less shooting, the Tigers are a remarkable 16-1. TSU is also 14-2 when they hold opponents to less than 67 points. The Big Blue has a 9-0 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. Four players have combined for 345 career made 3-pointers: Robert Covington (135), Wil Peters (125), Kenny Moore (51) and Patrick Miller (40). Covington's two treys versus Miami moved him into seventh all-time. Peter's two against the RedHawks moved him into 10th.

LINE ME UP: Coach John Cooper has experimented with nine different lineups. The Tigers hold an 11-1 record in the past 12 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 16-2 record at the Gentry.

YOU GELLIN' KELLEN?: Kellen Thornton has been on fire in the past nine contests. The Illinois State transfer is posting 12.1 ppg and 4.7 rpg. Thornton has clipped 60 percent (40-of-67) during that stretch, while grabbing 42 rebounds. On Feb. 20, he was named OVC Newcomer of the Week after tallying 10.5 ppg and 3.5 rpg in two wins.

SETTING THE MARK: Robert Covington and Wil Peters are close to reaching some career marks at Tennessee State. Covington is 19th all-time at TSU with 1,288 career points passing Mike Johnson and John Barnhill. He is just 13 shy of passing Ronnie Cage's (1981-84) mark of 1,300. Covington reached 13th on the all-time list in rebounds with 662.  Covington is 10 triples away from moving into sixth all-time. Peters needs 68 points to reach 1,000 points in his career. He is 80 assists shy of becoming the all-time assists leader at Tennessee State.

SENIOR PROFILE - PLENTY OF KENNY MOORE: Senior Kenny Moore is averaging 9.9 ppg and 3.8 rpg in the last nine games. The Philadelphia product has dished out 16 assists and 13 steals during that span. Moore is tallying 7.5 points and 3.0 rebounds in 22 games this season.