By Ron Wynn
The Tennessee State Tigers welcomed back Rob Covington, then put his scoring skills to good use in defeating Tennessee Tech 84-65 Thursday night at the Gentry Center. The win snapped a three-game conference losing streak, and continued their season-long home court winning mark. The Tigers are 9-0 at home (7-3 OVC, 13-10 overall). It’s their best start since the 1992-93 season.
Covington had 17 points in 23 minutes, and acknowledged after the game he played longer than expected. He also said on the TSU website that he was a bit winded in the first half, but eventually got adjusted after missing more than a month due to a knee injury and surgery.
He was one of five Tigers in double figures. Patrick Miller and Kellen Thornton also had 17 points, while M.J. Rhett had 13 and Jordan Cyphers 10. Thornton continued his strong rebounding work, grabbing 10. It was his seventh double-double of the season.
The Tigers’ aggressive defense forced a season high 24 turnovers by Tennessee Tech, leading to 32 points. At one stretch the Tigers had a 21-point lead, and were ahead 41-23 at the half. Tech rallied in the second half to cut the lead to 13, but the Tigers were never in any danger. A 9-3 closing run made the final 19-point margin, and Tennessee State added 12 steals.
“The coach had told us our defensive pressure wasn’t so good the last couple of games,” Miller said. “We did a much better job of helping each other out, and Rob got a lot of deflections that really helped the defense.”
“It felt good to be back out on the court after missing a month,” Covington added. “I was there on the sidelines rooting for my team. The coach had told me he was going to put me in here and there, but I didn’t really expect to play as many minutes as I did.”
TSU also overcame 24 fouls, another another season high. Tech had the identical number, something that resulted in 64 free throw attempts by the two teams. But the Tigers’ clamped down so effectively on Tech they shot less than 23 percent (22.2) from the floor in the first half. Tech dropped to 2-7 in the OVC (8-13 overall).
The Tigers now have a couple of tough road games. Their next stop will be Austin Peay on Thursday. The 7 p.m. game is available live on the ovc.com network.