Tennessee State (8-7) at Jacksonville State (10-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, January 5, 5:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Pete Mathews Coliseum (5,500) -- Jacksonville, Alabama. Television: none. Home Record: TSU 5-0, JSU 5-1. Away Record: TSU 2-6, JSU 3-3. Neutral Record: TSU 1-1, JSU 2-0. Conference Record: TSU 2-0, JSU 2-1. Series Record: Tennessee State leads, 11-9.
GAME NOTES: The Tennessee State Tigers aim for a season-high fourth consecutive victory when they play at Jacksonville State Gamecocks in an Ohio Valley Conference matchup this Saturday.
The Tigers are coming off a 72-66 victory at Tennessee Tech on Thursday, and they have won seven of their last nine contests. M.J. Rhett scored 15 points and had 12 rebounds and four blocks in the recent win, while Patrick Miller tallied a team-high 21 points to go with five assists. Jordan Cyphers added 14 points and Deshawn Dockery chipped in with 10.
With leading scorer and rebounder Robert Covington (17.4 ppg, 7.7 rpg) sidelined for an extended period of time due to a torn meniscus in his right knee, the Tigers have looked to the trio of Kellen Thornton (13.8 ppg, 7.1 rpg), Miller (12.4 ppg) and Cyphers (11.0 ppg) to carry the load offensively. Miller is averaging 20.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists during TSU's current win streak. He is also making 53 percent of his field goal attempts, including 8-of-13 from 3-point range.
TSU is in 10th place in the conference in shooting percentage at .414. The tipping point seems to be the 40-percent mark, as the Tigers are 0-6 when shooting below that figure. The Tigers have shot 51.6 percent during the current winning streak, and they rank fourth in the OVC in rebounds this season with 547, of which 105 have been taken in by Thornton. Long-range shooting hasn't been good this year for the Tigers, as they are last in the OVC with a .307 conversion rate. On the positive side is a defensive effort that features 4.1 blocks per game, which is fourth-best in the OVC.
The Gamecocks had their modest two-game winning streak come to an end with a 73-62 loss at home against OVC newcomer Belmont on Thursday. Brian Williams tallied a game-high 18 points, while Darion Rackley and Nick Cook each posted 11 points. JSU allowed Belmont to shoot 52 percent from the field and was outrebounded, 31-22.
The Gamecocks have four players averaging double figures in the scoring column this season, paced by Darion Rackley (13.6 ppg) and followed by Tarvin Gaines (12.8 ppg). Brian Williams (11.5 ppg) and Ronnie Boggs (10.8 ppg, 5.9 rpg) round out the double-digit scorers. This is uncharted territory for the Gamecocks, as a victory in this game would give them a 3-1 mark in the OVC, which would tie the best conference start in school history. JSU's success can be tied directly to foul shooting, as the Gamecocks are 8-0 when shooting more free throws than their opponents. They also rank in the top-10 in the country in 3-point defense, having limited foes to 25 percent shooting from long distance to this point.
The Tigers haven't notched back-to-back winning seasons in 16 years. It's still early in the conference schedule, but expect the Gamecocks to send TSU back to a .500 record. Even though Tennessee State has won 11 of the 20 all- time matchups, Jacksonville State holds an 8-2 mark in encounters at Pete Mathews Coliseum.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Jacksonville State 68, Tennessee State 63
01/05 10:37:41 ET