Tennessee State (12-7) at Belmont (14-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, January 19, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Curb Event Center (5,085) -- Nashville, Tennessee. Television: None. Home Record: TSU 8-0. Belmont 7-0. Away Record: TSU 3-6, Belmont 5-3. Neutral Record: TSU 1-1, Belmont 2-1. Conference Record: TSU 6-0, Belmont 5-0. Series Record: Belmont leads, 9-7.
GAMES NOTES: In a critical Ohio Valley Conference showdown the Tennessee State Tigers and the Belmont Bruins will square off with the top spot in the league on the line at Curb Event Center.
The Tigers have won seven straight games after a 66-60 victory over Jacksonville State on Thursday. Six of those wins came in the first half dozen league battles for Tennessee State which is now 12-7 overall. The bulk of the success has come at home though for the Tigers who are just 3-6 when they have ventured outside of the Gentry Center. This is the first of a three-game road trip that continues against Eastern Kentucky next for the Tigers.
The Bruins are also perfect against OVC competition at 5-0 after they put away Eastern Kentucky, 83-76. Belmont has yet to be beaten at home on the campaign with seven wins in seven tries at the Curb Event Center. Belmont enjoyed its non-conference schedule as well and is now 14-4 overall through the first half of the season. The Bruins will play consecutive games on the road next beginning against Morehead State this Thursday.
In recent years Belmont has dominated this in-state rivalry with wins in each of the last six meetings. The Bruins have rode that win streak to a 9-7 edge in the all-time series.
Led by 17 points from both Kellen Thornton and Patrick Miller, the Tigers were able to hold to defeat Jacksonville State. The Tigers shot at an even 50 percent clip and nailed 8-of-14 shots from beyond the arc in the victory. The Tigers also controlled the boards in the contest with a 30-22 edge in rebounds.
Despite being paced by the OVC-leader in assists Patrick Miller (13.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 5.2 apg), the Tigers have still managed to be just a mediocre offensive squad. Tennessee State is ranked just seventh in the conference in scoring (67.9 ppg) while connecting on just 42.7 points per game. On the defensive end the Tigers have made enough stops to keep themselves in the win column more often than not. Miller has done his best to take on a primary scoring role as well since lead scorer Robert Covington (17.4 ppg) was lost 4-6 weeks in late December with a knee injury. Kellen Thornton (14.7 ppg, 7.8 rpg) is another reliable scorer as well as one of the top five rebounders in the conference. Jordan Cyphers (10.9 ppg) also lends scoring punch but no other player on the roster scores more than five points per game.
Belmont was able to take down Eastern Kentucky, which was unbeaten in league play entering the contest, by shooting 51.9 percent from the field. The Bruins were actually outscored from the 3-point line (36-24), while turning the ball over 21 times. However the Bruins' 38-19 edge on the boards proved to be critical.
There has been no let up from Belmont on the offensive end. The Bruins lead the league in a number of offensive categories including points per game (77.2), assists (25.8 pg) and field goal percentage (.487). Each of those marks is among the 35 best in the country as well. The Bruins have paired their impressive offensive numbers with some strong showings on the defensive side as they let up just 62.7 points per game on 38.9 percent shooting. Ian Clark (18.9 ppg) leads the way as one of more efficient scorers in the conference. The 6-foot-3 guard has been on fire recently, averaging 28 points per game in the last three contests while hitting an incredible 74 percent of his shots from the field including 14-of-19 from beyond the arc. Also in double figures are Kerron Johnson (13.1 ppg, 4.9 apg) and Trevor Noack (12.6 ppg, 5.9 rpg).
With how hot Clark as been recently the Bruins are that much more dangerous. With their ability do dominate on both ends expect the Bruins to grab an important conference win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Belmont 75, Tennessee State 67
01/19 10:32:45 ET