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APSU Basketball beats Liberty 75-66 in St. Pete Shootout championship game

 

APSU Sports Information

APSU Men's BasketballSt. Petersburg, FL – Prior to Saturday, the last time Austin Peay State University (APSU) men’s basketball team won six in a row, the sixth win brought a championship back to Clarksville.

So too did the Govs sixth straight win in 2018—maybe not an Ohio Valley Conference Tournament title, but it will do. For now.

Austin Peay Men's Basketball gets 75-66 win over Liberty Saturday at the St. Pete Shootout. (APSU Sports Information)

Austin Peay Men’s Basketball gets 75-66 win over Liberty Saturday at the St. Pete Shootout. (APSU Sports Information)

The Govs rallied from a halftime deficit to take a 75-66 victory against Liberty in the championship contest of the 2018 St. Pete Shootout. A jolly Christmas it will be, indeed.

The first half offered frenetic pacing and outstanding offensive showings. Both squads shot better than 55 percent for the half, with Austin Peay jumping out to a 9-2 lead thanks to a pair of big buckets by sophomore Terry Taylor; the Bowling Green, Kentucky native scored 16 points in the first half, with senior Steve Harris picking up 10 points of his own accord.

But Liberty put on a late-half showcase from the floor, hitting 14 of their final 19 shots from the floor to close the first. Over the final five minutes of the frame, the Flames outscored the Govs 18-10 with Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz and Lovell Cabbill netting five points apiece down the stretch and Keenan Gumbs beating the buzzer on a three to put the Govs down five points at halftime.

The Govs rallied. Quickly. Scarcely three minutes into the second half, jumpers by Harris and sophomore Dayton Gumm had the Govs within a point. At the 13:37 mark, Taylor tied it with a layup; two possessions later, his fourth three-pointer of the day put the Govs ahead for good.

That sequence from Taylor kicked off a game-altering 12-4 run that took the Govs from down a bucket to ahead by eight points. Austin Peay then proceeded to put the clamps down defensively, holding Liberty to just five made field goals—on 5-of-13 shooting—from the start of that run to the game’s end.

The Flames would get within a possession just once in the final five minutes, coming within three points after a Scottie James dunk with 5:34 to play. The Govs answered with a 6-0 burst on lay-ups from Jabari McGhee, Taylor and a Harris runner that put the Govs up nine with 2:24 to play; the Flames didn’t get within seven for the game’s remainder.

Taylor finished with 32 points on 12-of-17 shooting, blocking a pair of shots and generally forcing Liberty to account for him at all times; he was the clear Tournament MVP. Harris finished with 18 points on an efficient 8-of-12 night to earn All-Tournament honors of his own.

The Difference

As a team, Austin Peay committed a season-low five turnovers while forcing Liberty into 13 miscues, which led to 18 Governor points on the other end.

APSU Notably

Austin Peay opened December at 5-0 for the first time in recorded program history.

Over the last five games, the Govs are shooting 52.8 percent (149-of-282) from the floor—the best five-game stretch for the Govs from the floor since a 54.5 percent (152-of-279) performance from December 19th, 2013 to January 4th, 2014.

For the 10th time this season, Taylor reached double figures in scoring; he also broke the 30-point barrier for the second time in three games, equaling the career high he set last week against Purdue Fort Wayne. He also rained a season-high four three-pointers down on the Flames.

Austin Peay’s turnover margin improved once again to plus-52 over the last six games.

The Govs have outscored opponents by an average of 46.8-to-22.0 in the paint over the last four games after enjoying a 40-26 advantage against Liberty.

Sophomore Dayton Gumm was 3-of-4 from the floor; he’s now hitting 62.5 percent (20-of-32) from the floor over his last six games since taking on a reserve role.

The victory gave Austin Peay its first tournament title and its first sweep in an in-season tournament since the 2000 Alaska Shootout.

Liberty recorded no blocked shots and no steals against the Governors.

Harris’ 18 points represented a season-high.

When surrendering fewer than 70 points, the Govs are 5-0 in 2018-19.

Coaching Quotables with APSU Head Coach Matt Figger

On team identity
“I think we’re starting to set the culture with our guys. Be tough and relentless every play. The one thing I think we’re pretty good at is playing offense. I had to adjust the things I wanted to do to the strengths of our team; some of what we’re doing, we do it out of necessity and it’s working. Our guys are playing at a high, high level right now, confidence-wise.”

On Taylor
“He’s a good player. He thought he let his team down (yesterday); what does a good player do when he thinks he let his team down? He comes back the next day and tells his teammates to get on his back.”

Up Next for APSU Govs

Christmas, followed by the nonconference finale and then OVC play. December 28th, the APSU Govs will travel to Arkansas for a 7:00pm contest at Bud Walton Arena against the Razorbacks, bookending the road schedule with SEC foes.


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