By Ron Wynn
Tennessee State University kept pace Wednesday night with Belmont in the OVC divisional race, defeating SIU-Edwardsville 83-73 in a road game that boosted their conference record to 10-4 (16-11 overall).
Belmont defeated Eastern Illinois 80-49, improving to 12-2 in the league (21-6 overall). It was also their 11th straight season of winning at least 12 conference games, though this is the Bruins’ inaugural OVC year.
A trio of TSU stars had big games on returning to their native state (Illinois). Kellen Thornton led the Tigers in both scoring (22 points) and rebounding (seven). Robert Covington had 18 points and Patrick Miller 17, while Jordan Cyphers was the fourth Tiger in double figures with 17.
TSU enjoyed a prolific shooting night, hitting 57.7 percent from the floor (30 of 52) and 66.7 percent from three-point territory (10 of 15). Despite that success, SIUE hung in with them throughout the first half, trailing only 44-41 at halftime. Five minutes into the second half the game was tied at 51 thanks to the efforts of SIUE’s Kris Davis. Davis had 25 points and made 10 of 15 shots from the floor.
But a 13-2 TSU run put the Tigers ahead for good. They never trailed in the second half. Only SIUE’s solid floor shooting (48.3 percent on 29 of 60) kept them competitive as TSU controlled both boards.
The Tigers are a game behind Eastern Kentucky (11-3 OVC, 22-6 overall) and two back of Belmont. Their next game is a nonconference affair Saturday night against Loyola (MD). They resume OVC activity next Thursday with a home game against Morehead State at 6 p.m., a game that will also be shown on ESPNU.
Belmont had an easy time with Eastern Illinois, jumping ahead 42-20 at halftime as Trevor Noack and J.J. Mann each had 21 points. Mann and Noack’s 19 points over the last 10:19 of the first half helped Belmont put the game away early.
The Bruins started the second half on a 24-9 run, and began substituting liberally through most of the final minutes. They also will have a nonconference game Saturday as thety entertain Ohio. The 9 p.m. game airs on ESPN 2.