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Stifling defense gives Austin Peay a big OVC road win

APSU Sports Information

APSU Men's BasketballCookeville, TN – The first half was a defensive struggle. The second, a lay-up line. But at the end, Austin Peay State University (APSU) men’s basketball team had done more than enough to snap a six-game losing streak in the Eblen Center by virtue of a 77-66 decision before a national audience, Thursday.

Austin Peay Men's Basketball uses defense to secure 77-66 victory at Tennessee Tech Thursday. (APSU Sports Information) [1]

Austin Peay Men’s Basketball uses defense to secure 77-66 victory at Tennessee Tech Thursday. (APSU Sports Information)

The victory put Austin Peay (15-7, 7-2 Ohio Valley Conference) back into the win column ahead of what’s shaping up to be a massive league contest against Jacksonville State on Saturday.

Tennessee Tech (7-15, 3-6) remains in a heated battle for one of the last OVC Tournament slots as the regular season hits the midway point.

Despite a first half that had its share of struggles from the floor—Austin Peay shot just 37.8 percent in the opening period—the Govs quickly built a double-digit lead on the Golden Eagles thanks to stifling defense.

Tennessee Tech hit just two shots from the floor over the first 10 minutes of play, by which point the Govs had already built a 13-point lead.

Two Cade Crossland three-pointers less than a minute apart woke up the home crowd, but Austin Peay quickly recovered and added to their lead, which reached 17 on a Steve Harris [2] jumper with 3:15 to play in the half.

Despite Tennessee Tech’s Corey Tillery beating the first-half buzzer with a jumper in the lane, Austin Peay possessed a 13-point lead at halftime, built in part by a 15-1 advantage in points off turnover.

Where both teams had long stretches of being unable to create easy buckets in the first half, the second half was a different story. To be fair to both defenses, few were the wide-open chances that weren’t created by a turnover on the other end of the floor; both teams hit more than their share of tough shots, either contested with a hand in the face or absorbing contact and finishing at the rim.

Chris Porter-Bunton [3], Terry Taylor [4] and Zach Glotta [5] took control at various points for the Govs in the half. Porter-Bunton scored Austin Peay’s first six points in the half, while Taylor with Austin Peay’s next eight points as the lead grew to 20 points with 15:39 to go. Glotta sprinkled in a trio of three-pointers, including two less than a minute apart near the 12-minute mark.  

For most of the half, the Austin Peay advantage stayed in the 15-20 point range as the Governors defense continually stymied Tennessee Tech.

However, after a Hunter Vick three at the 5:01 mark cut the Austin Peay lead to 18, Tennessee Tech seemed to come alive; the Golden Eagles hit five of their final six shots from the field, cutting the Governor lead to nine with 31 seconds to play, but it was too late to do more than throw a brief bit of concern into the Govs by that point.

 

The Difference

The aforementioned 15-1 advantage in points off turnover after the first half eventually settled at 24-8 in the Governors favor for the game, giving the Govs an 11-0 record when earning more points off turnover than their opponent this season.

Austin Peay’s ball control was pivotal; after a turnover on the game’s first possession, the Govs committed just eight the rest of the way, compared to 24 for Tennessee Tech.

APSU Notably

The victory is Austin Peay’s 70th all-time against Tennessee Tech and its first since 2009 in Cookeville.

7-2 represents both Austin Peay’s best January finish since going unbeaten for the month in 2007 and its best nine-game start to league play since 2008-09 (8-1).

Porter-Bunton put up 15 points and a game-high four steals in the win; he’s averaging 17.0 points on 54.1 percent (33-of-61) shooting from the floor with 2.8 steals over the last six games.  

The Govs remain unbeaten on Thursday’s (6-0) in 2018-19.

Over the last three games, Austin Peay is hitting 71.4 percent (45-of-63) at the free-throw line.

The Govs are 8-0 this season when surrendering fewer than 70 points; Austin Peay has won those games by an average of 30.6 points.

In addition to his eighth double-digit scoring outing as a Gov (all since Dec. 1, fourth in league play), grad transfer Jabari McGhee [8] recorded multiple steals and multiple blocks in the same game for the second time this season; to date, he’s the only Gov to achieve that feat even once.

Once again, Austin Peay hit better than 40 percent from the floor, shooting 43.1 percent (28-of-65) on the evening; that equaled the Governors longest streak of 40-percent shooting since 2013-14 (19 games).

Taylor’s streak of games in double figures extended to a season-long nine contests after he scored 18 to lead all scorers. He’s averaging 19.6 ppg during that stretch.

Since equaling their season-high with 21 turnovers at UT Martin, the Govs have committed 51 total turnovers over the last five games.

With a quartet of three-pointers, Glotta equaled Travis Betran [9] (2012-14) for ninth on Austin Peay’s career three-pointers list with 159. It also marked the sixth time this season Glotta has hit at least four three-pointers; the Govs are 5-1 in those contests.

Prior to Thursday, Austin Peay had not beaten Tennessee Tech in the regular season since 2014.

Coaching Quotables with APSU Head Coach Matt Figger [10]

On the game overall
“We got back to being ourselves a little bit defensively. But when we get leads, it’s frustrating that we don’t buckle down, that we don’t have that pride and courage to take it to the next level. We had it 60-40, game’s totally in hand, and we decided that it was over.”

On offense
“We were getting to the rim, especially in the second half. We found a way to take control of it. We shot 65 shots, and outside of the 18 threes we took, I’d bet 45 were right at the rim.”

On defense
“You get a 23-point lead, you can’t play the score, and there’s no question that we did. You’ve got to keep going at those guys. That stuff can come back to bite you.”

 


Up Next for APSU Govs

Jacksonville State, which thrashed Murray State on Thursday night, will welcome the APSU Governors to Pete Mathews Coliseum for a 4:00pm, Saturday, February 2nd contest in Jacksonville, Alabama.