"It doesn't matter what we do in the beginning of the year, it's how we finish," Tipler said after the Raiders thumped Dyersburg State 131-78 Saturday night. "Of course we don't want to lose, but when we lose we know what we've got to do. All that matters is what happens in the end and they'll see."
Three Rivers, which struggled offensively during its first three-game losing skid in more than two decades, found its groove against the Eagles. The Raiders shot 55.6 percent and made a season-high 13 3-pointers.
Their 131 points fell just shy of the all-time mark of 138 set against Florissant Valley in 1994.
Tipler paced six players in double figures with 21 points, seven rebounds, nine assists and five steals.
C.J. Hadley hit four 3s en route to 19 points and Danijel Zoric (16), Steve Deken (13), Terrence Smith (12) and Nick Covington (12) also finished in double figures.
After enduring a losing skid that concluded with the team's second-ever loss at the Black River Coliseum on Thursday, Three Rivers has a mini win streak.
"If you're going to lose a few, now is the time to lose them because we're not even in regional play yet," Raiders coach Gene Bess said. "This has been a humbling experience to say the least, but life goes on. Life is cruel sometimes."
Bess too believes that it's too early to count Three Rivers (7-3) out.
"I think the character of this team is pretty good," he said. "If I was those people, I wouldn't bet against us down late because I think we're going to be pretty good."
The Raiders, who lost by an average of 17 points to Southeastern Illinois, John A. Logan and Eastern Oklahoma State, have made a 180-degree turnaround defensively.
Three Rivers forced 29 Dyersburg State turnovers and held the Eagles to 28.7 shooting in a contest that was over as quickly as it started. The Raiders jumped out to a quick 26-3 lead and were never threatened.
Deken addressed the team in the locker room prior to Friday night's win against Itawamba, Miss.
"At times I thought they lacked heart and desire to go out there and play hard to win every game," Deken said. "That's exactly what I told them."
Three Rivers put Dyersburg State (3-9) away early by scoring the first 11 points of the game.
Following a Rodney Gibbs free throw for the Eagles' first point, Leonard Bishop Jr. knocked down a jumper and Derrell Minner converted in the lane as the Raiders went ahead 16-1. Tipler came up with a steal and transition basket to make it 22-3, then hit a pair of free throws following a technical foul on the Eagles' bench. One possession later, Tipler sliced through the lane and hit Zoric for an easy basket to give Three Rivers a 23-point advantage.
Tipler, who had 10 points and four assists in the opening 10 minutes, had a part in nine of the Raiders' first 13 baskets.
"Dereke played his best game ever early," Bess said." He ran it right down their throats, hit open people. We could get to another level if we play like this -- run out and take care of the ball as well as we did tonight and guard defensively."
Hadley made it 40-15 when Tipler found him alone in the corner for an uncontested 3. The Raiders, who were shooting 30 percent from downtown coming in, made 13-of-24 against Dyersburg State.
"We were pretty wide open," Bess said. "I don't know if we could shoot 3s in practice any better than that."
Walk-on Aaron Bidewell drained his first 3-pointer of the season at the 3:49 mark, then hit another at the end of the half as the Raiders took a 59-31 halftime lead. Bidewell, who had six total points in eight games this season, scored seven on 2-of-5 shooting.
"Bidewell is one of the hardest workers, but you can't tell because he doesn't get in the game," Tipler said. "He came out and played hard and we're happy for him."