Second-half defense powers Austin Peay Govs to win over archrival Racers
APSU Sports Information
Clarksville, TN – The latest version of the Heritage Bank Battle of the Border goes to Austin Peay State University (APSU) women’s basketball team as they defeated archrival Murray State, 59-56, Saturday, at the Winfield Dunn Center.
The win was also critical for the Governors (13-12, 8-6 OVC) as they started the day a game ahead of Murray, SIU Edwardsville, and Southeast Missouri in the Ohio Valley Conference standings.
Austin Peay Women’s Basketball takes down Murray State 59-56 at the Dunn Center Saturday afternoon. (APSU Sports Information)
The Govs used timely three-point shooting and terrific second-half defense for their fourth win in a row over the Racers (10-15, 6-8 OVC) at the Dunn.
It was a sloppy start for the Govs, as they turned the ball over on three of their first four possessions.
The Racers took advantage of the poor start, hitting five of their seven shots to jump out to an 11-2 lead.
However, the Govs finally woke up and responded with a 9-0 run sparked by a Keisha Gregory three. The Racers started to slow down from their frantic pace to begin the game, as the Govs started to play some more aggressive defense and get a couple more stops.
Another Gregory three near the end of the quarter brought the Murray State lead back to just one, 16-15, and that is how the quarter ended. The Govs received a massive boost though, as Kelen Kenol returned to the court, playing in her first game since the last non-conference game against Evansville in December.
Despite Maggie Knowles hitting a three-pointer early on to tie the game in the second quarter, the Govs could not get going offensively, going on a zero-of-seven stretch on their next seven attempts. The cold stretch was broken by back-to-back threes from the Ferby twins, as the Govs retook the lead for a brief moment before the Racers went on a 7-0 run.
Another Gregory three cut the lead to five, but Murray used 14 points from the OVC’s leading scorer, Evelyn Adebayo, to lead 34-28 at halftime. The Govs shot well from beyond the arc in the first half, going 6-of-13, but were just 4-of-16 on two-point shots.
The Racers also limited the Govs getting to the free-throw line, as the Govs just made two of their four free throws in the half, two days after making 28 total free throws against Morehead State.
For much of the third quarter, it seemed like the Govs were hanging on by a thread.
The Govs cut it to two early but Janika Griffith-Wallace nailed her third three-pointer of the game to spark a 7-0 Murray run that included a technical foul on the APSU bench.
However, Brianah Ferby nailed a massive triple to get the Dunn Center crowd back into it, before Brandi Ferby hit another three on the next possession, forcing a timeout. It was the second time that the Ferby twins hit threes on back-to-back possessions and suddenly a nine-point Murray lead was down to three.
After the Ferby outburst, both teams finished the quarter extremely cold, as the Racers went one-of-seven to finish the quarter, while finished the quarter on a 2-of-13 stretch. Griffith-Wallace put the Racers back up top by six after a pair of late free throws, but more importantly, drew the foul on Gregory, who picked up her fourth foul.
The Govs knew they needed a big momentum-changing run and they wasted no time in doing so. After a quick bucket from Gregory, who stayed on the floor with the four fouls, Knowles nailed a triple to bring the Govs within one. The Govs forced a turnover on the next possession, it led to Gregory finishing in transition, and suddenly a six-point deficit was a one-point advantage.
The Racers responded by hitting three of their next four shots before Brianah Ferby hit another massive three-pointer off an assist from her sister, stepping back and shooting from WNBA range as the shot clock expired to tie the game at 53. After a timeout, Griffith-Wallace silenced the crowd with a three of her own, as she proved to be the go-to option for the Racers.
Griffith-Wallace had 14 in the second half, but the Govs keyed in on Adebayo, routinely bringing help when she was trying to get into post position and forcing the other four Racers on the court to beat them. Adebayo only had two points in the second half and finished with 16 points and nine rebounds. For any other player, that seems like a great statline, but Adebayo is a walking double-double who came into the contest averaging 18 points and 13 rebounds per game.
Back on the floor, the Ferby twins once again were coming up big for the Govs. Brianah finished strongly to cut it to one before Brandi was fouled with only 70 seconds left and she made both free throws to give the Govs a one-point advantage.
From then on, the Govs knew a couple stops would give them the win and they answered the challenge. Brandi took a charge on Griffith-Wallace to give the ball back to the Govs, but Gregory’s contested jumper rimmed out and the Racers once again had the ball with a chance to win, this time with just 24 seconds left.
The Govs denied Adebayo the ball and did not allow Griffith-Wallace to drive to her right hand, forcing freshman Macey Turley, who broke the Murray State record for most consecutive free throws made in a season in the game, to put up a contested baseline jumper that missed and went out of bounds back to the Governors. Gregory calmly made two free throws to give the Govs a three-point lead before Adebayo’s potential game-tying shot missed, giving the Govs a 59-56 victory over their archrival.
The Govs are now 8-6 in the OVC and completed a 2-0 weekend for the first time since the opening weekend.
In the all-time series, the Govs and the Racers have now each won 44 games.
Keisha Gregory recorded her second straight game with at least 20 points.
Brandi Ferby played a career-high 38 minutes and dished out a career-high nine assists, the most by a Govs player this season.
Ferby also had a career-high seven rebounds in the contest.
The Govs made 11 three-pointers in the game, the first time they have made at least 10 threes in back-to-back games since the Trevecca and Mississippi Valley games.
The Govs won their first game this season in which their opponent had more free throw attempts.
After three turnovers on their first four possessions, the Govs only had six more turnovers the entire game, including only three in the entire second half.
The Govs won just their second game all season after entering the fourth quarter trailing.
APSU Head Coach David Midlick’s Musings
“In the fourth quarter I thought we played really good defense and that is what I told the team. Even the shots they made were highly contested and it was just very good defense against a very strong offensive basketball team that has been scoring lately. We were down nine and never lost that defensive intensity and were able to score enough baskets.”
Next Up For APSU
The APSU Govs remain in the Dunn Center, playing their final two home games next Thursday and Saturday against Southeast Missouri and UT Martin, respectively.