Tennessee State (18-13) vs. Belmont (24-6)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, March 8, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Municipal Auditorium (8,000) -- Nashville, Tennessee. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: TSU 11-2, Belmont 13-0. Away Record: TSU 5-10, Belmont 9-5. Neutral Record: TSU 2-1, Belmont 2-1. Conference Record: TSU 11-5, Belmont 14-2. Series Record: Belmont leads, 10-8.
GAME NOTES: The top-seeded Belmont Bruins finally get in on the action at the 50th annual Ohio Valley Conference Tournament on Friday night, as they clash with Tennessee State in the semifinals at Municipal Auditorium in Nashville.
Belmont, which used to dominate the Atlantic Sun Conference before making the move over to the OVC, has won six consecutive conference tournament games and is no stranger to this particular facility having served as the program's home from 2001-03 while the Curb Event Center was under construction.
The Bruins finished with the best record in the OVC this season at 14-2 and was an impressive 24-6 overall, with two of those non-conference setbacks coming against Top-25 caliber programs in Kansas and VCU.
As for the Tigers, the fourth seed in the tourney who bowed to Murray State in the title game a year ago (54-52), they were in action on Thursday and captured an 88-75 win over Morehead State in order to advance. Now showing a record of 12-22 in the event over the years, TSU has won the tournament twice, but the last victory was way back in 1994.
These two teams split their regular season meetings and according to Tennessee State sources the Tigers now trail in the all-time series by a 10-8 margin.
The winner of this contest will go up against the survivor of the Eastern Kentucky/Murray State matchup on Saturday night in the title tilt.
TSU led by as many as 15 points against the Eagles on Thursday, thanks to the efforts of Jordan Cyphers and Robert Covington who delivered 23 and 21 points, respectively, the former shooting 3-of-4 behind the 3-point line and the latter tying for the team-high with eight rebounds. Patrick Miller and Kellen Thornton both accounted for 15 points, with Miller also dealing out a game- high 10 assists as well.
A starter in all 31 games this season, Miller is not only second on the unit in scoring with 14.6 ppg, he is also first in assists (179) and steals (52), not to mention coming up with 4.3 rpg when he finds the time. Thornton checks in with 15.5 ppg and is also tops with close to eight rebounds per game, stats that could be even better if not for the fact that he has fouled out seven times.
During the regular season the Bruins generally dominated league opponents, outscoring them by an average of more than 15 ppg, as the offense generated a hefty 80.1 ppg on the strength of not only 52.2 percent shooting from the field, but also 41.8 percent behind the 3-point line. Ian Clark was one of five players to average double digits for the group with a team-best 18.7 ppg, stemming from his very successful 46.9 percent accuracy out on the perimeter. Kerron Johnson was responsible for another 13.0 ppg, which almost half of his points coming at the free-throw line (92-of-113). Johnson was also the top man in terms of getting teammates on the scoreboard, handing out 75 assists. Over the course of those 16 league bouts, Belmont was credited with 273 assists, compared to just 179 for the competition.
Even though the opposing teams have changed, Belmont is still well-versed in post-season success and should have little trouble advancing to the title game as it beats up on Tennessee State.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Belmont 82, Tennessee State 66
03/08 10:33:35 ET