Fayetteville, AR – In many respects, the style of basketball Arkansas plays—high-tempo, maniacal defense—is the archetype to which Austin Peay State University (APSU) head men’s basketball coach Matt Figger strives to get his young Governors acclimated.
Tuesday showcased how close the Govs are to achieving that vision, yet still how far remains to go following a 69-61 defeat by the Razorbacks at Bud Walton Arena.
The effort, the fight, the determination—top notch. Once the execution matches up with it, look out.
Austin Peay State University (3-4) showed early that they weren’t going to roll over for an SEC opponent; the Govs raced out to a 5-0 lead on an Evan Hinson three and a Hinson-to-Terry Taylor lob and never trailed by more than a possession through the first 14 minutes of play.
Even a six-minute stretch without a field goal seemed to be mitigated by the attacking presence of Antwuan Butler and Eli Abaev; the duo willed themselves to the line when shots weren’t falling from the floor, but Arkansas seemed at the point of breaking out when an Isaiah Joe three-point play capped an 18-6 run to give the Razorbacks a 34-26 lead late in the first half.
But the Govs went into the break with all the momentum, bookending a Jordyn Adams bucket with a Taylor layup to beat the buzzer, sending the Govs into the break down just four.
As well as it ended the first half, Austin Peay could never quite get all the way back in the second half.
Myriad times—on an Adams bucket out of the half, on a Carlos Paez three following the under-16 media, on back-to-back Abaev-to-Taylor lob plays around the under-12 media—the Govs seemed poised to start a run that would allow them to take control of the game. To Arkansas’ credit, the Razorbacks never wavered and countered every Austin Peay burst with one of their own.
The three-point shooting of the Razorbacks, dormant for much of the season at 25.6 percent entering the contest, provided the ultimate dagger. After a Desi Sills three made it 62-49 with 2:42 to play, Butler answered with a three of his own. Seconds later, Sills—who entered the night 2-of-30 from three—raced down the court and hit another three to push the deficit back to 13 points.
In a game this close, the margin for error is practically nil. The Govs shot better from deep than just about anyone else has against Arkansas this season, hitting 6-of-19 from three—better than the 17.6 percent the Razorbacks had been allowing. But Arkansas hit 9-of-23 from deep, far exceeding the 25.6 percent they’d hit beyond the arc heading into the contest.
Over the last three games, Austin Peay State University is averaging 18.3 second-chance points.
The Govs are averaging plus-6.7 in rebounding margin the last three games. This contest also marked the first time this season the Govs lost when outrebounding their opponent.
Abaev is averaging 9.8 rebounds over the last four games after pulling down a career-high 11 against the Razorbacks.
Prior to Tuesday, the APSU Govs had not lost when surrendering fewer than 70 points since December 6th, 2017 at Illinois.
Adams ran his string of double-digit scoring efforts to five straight games, averaging 15.2 ppg during that time.
The loss is Austin Peay’ State University’s sixth straight on the road dating back to last season; it also sees the Govs drop to 0-4 on the road to start the season for the third time in four seasons.
The APSU Govs had season-lows in free-throws made (11) and attempted (13), but registered a season-best 84.6 percent clip at the charity stripe.
Austin Peay State University’s 41.5 percent mark from the floor equaled the most allowed by the Razorbacks in 2019-20; the 61 points also equaled the most allowed by Arkansas this season and is the most the Razorbacks have surrendered in regulation.
Over the last three games, Taylor is averaging 27.3 points on 67.3 percent shooting, with 10.0 rebounds.
With a game-high 20 points, Taylor passed Adrian Henning (2000-04) and Anthony Campbell (2008-12) and moved into 12th all-time in scoring with 1,365 points. He also passed Reggie Crenshaw for fourth all-time in offensive rebounds (270).
Coaching Quotables with APSU head coach Matt Figger
“It probably wasn’t the prettiest game on both sides. There were lots of turnovers. I would say they played better than us in stretches. We had a stretch where it was a four-point game, they hadn’t scored in a while and we didn’t take advantage of it. They were able to take control and keep it a safe distance. We didn’t execute when we needed to and we didn’t make some plays and finish some balls at the rim that we needed to finish.”
On Sills’ threes
“Oh, I went to my knees. We had done the job, and he shot it up in the air and it drew some rain and went in. It was deflating for us because we were right there, but our kids kept competing. I wasn’t happy with our team because we were in a similar game like this with Vanderbilt and we didn’t fight like we did tonight.”
“We were able to get him some touches. I had to play him too many minutes and there were a couple of shots I thought he settled for that didn’t come in the rhythm of the offense, but he gave us a chance to win.”
Up Next for APSU Men’s Basketball
Austin Peay State University will host North Florida in a 4:00pm, Saturday, contest in the Dunn Center.