Charleston, Ill. - Tennessee State men's basketball took an early first half lead and behind a balanced scoring attack held off an Eastern Illinois comeback, as the Tigers captured a 55-46 victory at Lantz Arena.
The victory marked the first time in over a year TSU (11-10, 4-4 Ohio Valley) had captured a road victory over an OVC opponent, snapping a nine game losing skid against conference foes on the road. The OVC road win was the first for TSU since defeating UT Martin on Jan. 8, 2011.
Eastern Illinois (9-8, 2-3 OVC) took a brief two point lead early, but the Tigers battled and stretched their advantage to 11 in the first half. TSU's advantage was cut to 33-30 in the second half, but the Tigers used critical baskets from Wil Peters and Kenny Moore to extend the advantage. EIU cut the lead within six a couple of more occasions, but it wasn't enough as TSU held on for the win.
TSU shot 45 percent, knocking down 22 of 49 attempts. The Tigers out-rebounded Eastern Illinois 35-to-30. TSU dished out 11 assists, including six from Illinois native Patrick Miller. EIU was held to 36 percent shooting (20-of-25), including 3-of-21 (14 percent) behind the arch.
Chicago native Kellen Thornton led TSU with 14 points and pulled in a team-best six rebounds in the victory. Thornton was 5-of-7 from the floor in 25 minutes of action.
Peters completed the game with 12 points, going 5-of-8 from the field. The senior guard also hit a pair of triples and corralled two rebounds in 25 minutes.
Junior forward Robert Covington extended his double-digit scoring streak to 20 games, notching 11 points. The Bellwood, Ill., native grabbed four boards, picked up two blocks and collected a steal in 33 minutes.
Kenny Moore notched eight points and a season-high eight rebounds for the Tigers. M.J. Rhett added six points and three boards in 13 minutes.
Tennessee State took a 29-23 lead into the locker room. The Tigers made 12-of-25 from the field for 48 percent. EIU was held to 31 percent (9-of-29) shooting from the field. Rhett led the Tigers with six points, while Thornton had five points and five rebounds. EIU's Joey Miller had 17 points to lead the Panthers at the break. Miller finished the game with 19 points.
Tigers held on to an early 7-6 lead with 15:35 left in the first half. Covington and Moore hit back-to-back baskets to put the Big Blue up 13-9. TSU then proceeded on a five point run to expand their lead to nine.
The Tigers expanded their lead to 11 when Peters knocked down a triple at 4:12 in the first period. The Panthers battled back going on a 5-0 run to close out the half, Miller hit a triple to make it a 29-23 contest at the half.
The second half started on a strong run for the Panthers as they cut the Tigers lead to 33-30 in the first five minutes. However, the Tigers added another five point string to go up 37-30 with 13:37 remaining.
Eastern Illinois went on an 8-to-4 run, cutting Tennessee State's advantage to 41-38. Peters drains a triple at 5:12 to put the Tigers back up by six.
Covington added a basket to give the Tigers the 52-44 edge with just over a minute remaining. EIU's Jeremy Granger followed up with a fade-away to reduce the Tigers' lead to six with approximately a minute left. TSU added three freebies down the stretch to secure the win.
The Tigers take a week hiatus before visiting UT Martin on Thursday, Jan. 26. Tipoff with the Skyhawks is 7 p.m.
-- TSU TIGERS --