Jacksonville State (12-5) at Tennessee State (11-7)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, January 17, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Gentry Complex (10,500) -- Nashville, Tennessee. Television: None. Home Record: JSU 5-2, TSU 7-0. Away Record: JSU 5-3, TSU 3-6. Neutral Record: JSU 2-0, TSU 1-1. Conference Record: JSU 4-2, TSU 5-0. Series Record: Tennessee State leads, 12-9.
GAME NOTES: The Tennessee State Tigers will try to stay perfect in Ohio Valley Conference play on Thursday night when they host the Jacksonville State Gamecocks at Gentry Complex.
Jacksonville State has put together a solid first half of the season, winning 12 of its 17 games overall. The Gamecocks lost back-to-back decisions at the beginning of January, but they recently bounced back with wins over SIU Edwardsville (75-62) and Eastern Illinois (61-55) last week to move to 4-2 in OVC play.
Tennessee State boasts a favorable overall record (11-7), but it has played its best basketball in recent weeks. An 81-69 victory over Southeast Missouri State last Saturday was the club's fifth straight league win and sixth straight overall. The Tigers have also been fantastic on their home floor, winning all seven games in Nashville this season.
Tennessee State defeated Jacksonville State just a few weeks back, claiming a 66-57 decision on Jan. 5 to take an 11-9 lead in the all-time series.
Jacksonville State was able to outlast EIU in its latest contest by shooting an impressive 47.7 percent from the field, and it featured a 22-point effort from Tarvin Gaines, which was one point off his season-high. Brian Williams was also impressive in the triumph, shooting 8-of-13 from the field for 16 points while also adding seven assists and five rebounds. The Gamecocks' offensive attack has been modest at best this season, shooting less than 43 percent from the floor for 64.6 ppg, but they have found great success behind a scoring defense that allows just 60.4 ppg. Darion Rackley is the team's leading scorer with 14.0 ppg, but he is listed as questionable for Thursday's game with a thumb injury. If he is unable to go, Gaines (13.8 ppg) will once against act at the go-to guy. Williams tallies 11.7 ppg and a team-best 3.8 apg, although he shoots just 37.6 percent from the field. Ronnie Boggs adds 10.6 ppg and 5.8 rpg to the balanced attack.
The Tigers leaped out to a 14-point halftime lead over SEMO by shooting a sizzling 64 percent from the field in the opening frame, and although they cooled off after the break in hitting just 36.7 percent of their total shots, they were still able to hang on and keep their winning streak alive. Kellen Thornton was a beast in the victory, tallying career-highs with 28 points and 16 rebounds, while going 11-of-16 from the floor. Patrick Miller generated 20 points, while Jordan Cyphers shot 4-of-6 from 3-point range on his way to 14 points. TSU has been able to win games lately despite boasting a mediocre offensive attack (.423 FG percentage, 68 ppg), and its accomplishments have been even more impressive considering a lot of it has come without one of the best players in the OVC in Robert Covington (17.4 ppg, 7.7 rpg), who went down with a knee injury in mid-December and is expected to miss another couple of weeks. Thornton (14.6 ppg, 7.9 rpg) has stepped up his play in Covington's absence, as he has averaged 15.8 ppg and 11.4 rpg in the last five. Miller chips in with 13.2 ppg, and he has piled up team-highs 5.6 apg and 1.8 spg.
It's sure to be a hard-fought battle when two of the best teams in the OVC square off. TSU has somehow become stronger in the absence of its best player, and its hot play of late combined with a rowdy home crowd should equal good things for the Tigers.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Tennessee State 68, Jacksonville State 63
01/17 10:36:49 ET