APSU Sports Information
Evansville, IN – Whatever struggles the Austin Peay State University men’s basketball team endured in the season’s final week, you can forget about those now.
The Govs got back in the win column with a 95-81 win against Morehead State, advancing to the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament semifinals for the second consecutive season and third time in four years, dominating the low post to take care of the Eagles for the third time in 2019.
Things started slowly, not necessarily from a scoring standpoint but from the start the game was disjointed. Austin Peay was whistled for four fouls in the first 4:05 of play, with Isaiah Hart entering at the 16:22 mark and exiting by 16:04 after picking up two quick fouls.
Morehead State fared little better. The Eagles were whistled for the next seven fouls, which helped put the Govs in the bonus by the 10:11 mark in the first half. Already without All-OVC talent Lamontray Harris, the Eagles were without starters De’Von Cooper and James Baker for large portions of the half due to foul trouble, and the Govs capitalized with an array of scoring opportunities—Austin Peay hit 50.0 percent from the floor, 90.9 percent at the line and 53.8 percent from three in the first half, staking a 20-point lead into halftime.
Much of this was down to Chris Porter-Bunton, who hit his first shot of the game and just built from there. The senior, who already has a ring and earlier this week earned his first All-OVC honor, scored 15 points in the first half alone; he hit a trio of threes, including one from halfway back to Clarksville in the midst of a 14-4 run that took Austin Peay from a two-point lead to a 12-point advantage.
Porter-Bunton’s first shot of the second half was a special one. On a stepback, he hit a jumper for his 17th point of the contest and the 1,000th of his Austin Peay career, becoming the 37th member of the 1,000-point club at Austin Peay.
Morehead State would trail by as many as 22 early in the half, but a 9-0 Eagle run cut the Austin Peay lead all the way to 11 points, forcing Austin Peay head coach Matt Figger to call a timeout at the 12:57 mark. Much of this coincided with the departure of Steve Harris, who hit the bench early in the second half with his third foul. Harris may not have been the eye-popping catalyst, but when he was on the floor the Govs were successful Thursday night; he finished with a plus-minus of plus-21, highest by a Gov.
The Eagles twice made sustained runs to put the Govs on the defensive, cutting Austin Peay’s lead to nine on a Jordan Walker three at the 8:50 mark, and cutting it back down to 10 after ending Terry Taylor’s one-man run that saw him score 11 straight points for the Govs.
But the Eagles were never able to get it closer than nine, as the Govs closed out the contest at the charity stripe; the Govs were money all game at the free-throw line, hitting 27-of-31 attempts, with Taylor going 11-of-12 and Jabari McGhee, a 58.3 percent shooter at the line entering the game, hitting 8-of-10 on the night.
The Govs outrebounded Morehead State by 20 (46-26), easily their largest disparity against a Division I foe this season. Three Govs (Taylor, McGhee and Porter-Bunton) accounted for 35 of these rebounds by themselves, nearly becoming the first trio of Govs with double-digit rebounds in a single game since 2011—Porter-Bunton finished with nine, while McGhee (14 points, 16 boards) and Taylor (28 points, 10 boards) earned their sixth and 12th double-doubles of the season, respectively.
The win snaps a three-game losing streak for the Govs against the Eagles in the OVC Tournament; it’s their first win against Morehead State in OVC Tournament competition since 1987.
Taylor’s 28-point performance moves him 21 away from breaking James Williams’ sophomore scoring record; Taylor is at 667 points in his second campaign as a Gov. He also hit a team season-high 11 free-throws. His percentages have risen significantly over the last dozen games; he’s shooting 54.1 percent (112-of-207) from the floor and 81.9 percent (59-of-72) at the line during that stretch.
The victory is Austin Peay’s fourth at a neutral site in 2018-19, tied with the 1995-96 and 2015-16 teams for second-most in program history.
In one of the biggest nights of his Austin Peay career, Porter-Bunton set career-highs in scoring (27 points), field goals (10) and three-pointers attempted (seven). He also secured Austin Peay’s only two steals in the contest.
The win is Austin Peay’s 22nd this season, most since a 24-win campaign in 2007-08.
Opponents are hitting 49.6 percent (196-of-395) from the floor over the last seven games against the Governors.
The Govs equaled season highs in three-pointers attempted (28) and free-throws made (27).
Morehead State committed just seven turnovers, tied with Central Connecticut for fewest by an Austin Peay opponent this season.
In their last two meetings, the Govs have held the Morehead State reserve unit to three total points.
The Governors still have never lost three straight games under head coach Matt Figger.
The Govs are now:
- 16-3 when outrebounding their opponent.
- 18-2 when leading at the half.
- 7-1 when scoring 90 or more points.
- 9-2 on Thursday’s
APSU Coaching Quotables with head coach Matt Figger
“The guys make the plays. The guys here with me—Chris got us going to start the game and Terry quietly did what he normally does, getting a double-double. There’s a reason we’re in the semifinals, and a lot of it goes to these two guys and what they’ve been able to accomplish this year. We’re thankful we’re here and we’re very excited about our opportunity tomorrow night and we’ll get ready to play a very good team tomorrow.”
“In tournament play, you’ve got to win the rebounding battle. We were impressive on the glass, especially the offensive glass. That’s been our MO; in the second half, when we weren’t shooting very well, we were relentless on the offensive glass.
On senior leadership
“They make it fun for me. The way we played in the first half, I can sit there and be a cheerleader. They respond anytime I challenge them, and that’s a credit to those guys believing in what we do and buying in.”
Up Next for APSU Govs
APSU Govs play Belmont in the OVC Tournament semifinals tips at 7:00pm, Friday, at the Ford Center. The Govs won in 2016. Belmont won last year. Who will be the winner this time around?