Clarksville, TN – Like Austin Peay State University (APSU), UT Martin was a trendy preseason dark horse to perhaps challenge for an Ohio Valley Conference title in a year that feels very transitional for the league (no more Rick Byrd at Belmont, no more Ja Morant at Murray State).
Like Austin Peay State University, UT Martin plays at a high-octane pace, scores in spades and can boast a high-scoring offensive duo capable of playing with anyone.
Unlike Austin Peay State University, the Skyhawks are still seeking their first league win of this campaign after the Govs moved to 2-0 in OVC play with an 82-63 win that saw the Govs clamp down defensively and play some of their finest ball of the season in the second half.
Both teams play with pace, so it’s no surprise the first half was an up-and-down battle in transition. The APSU Govs took a 13-8 lead following a Terry Taylor dunk but the Skyhawks kicked off a 13-2 run on the very next possession, with Quintin Dove putting up eight by himself.
The Govs would tie it up on a Pavle Djurisic free-throw with less than eight minutes to play in the first half, then take the lead a possession later when Djurisic hit a leaning banker from the right side of the lane. During one stretch, the Montenegro big man had five of Austin Peay’s seven points and drew a charge on the other end of the floor to breathe some life into the Austin Peay State University attack. As a coda to the half, he put the ball on the floor and sliced through the lane for a buzzer-beating layup to send APSU into the locker room with a five-point lead.
UT Martin gambled by keeping Quintin Dove in the game with two first-half fouls and Dove rewarded head coach Anthony Stewart with 18 first-half points. But on Austin Peay’s first possession of the second half, the preseason All-OVC pick was whistled for his third foul. Stewart bet on the Cleveland native to refrain from picking up No. 4 early in the half, but the side effect was that Dove, one of UT Martin’s primary interior defenders, had to play it safe whenever the Govs drove the lane.
And drive they did. Sensing an opening, Carlos Paez drove from the wing time and again, consistently putting teammates in position for an easy finish. If they weren’t driving, the Govs were granted easy entry to the high post, where Taylor and Eli Abaev were able to either head to the hoop or kick out to an open man.
This confluence of events helps explain the half-opening 14-1 run to put the Skyhawks at a large deficit. By the 12-minute media timeout, when Jordyn Adams picked up his fourth foul, the Govs were able to withstand not having one of their primary scoring options for a few minutes thanks to an 18-point lead.
UT Martin did not make a shot from the field until less than 10 minutes remained in the game; while the Skyhawks would rally to post a solid 40.9 percent showing from the floor in the second half, the Govs countered with 56.7 percent and left no chance for a comeback.
The final 10 minutes belonged to Taylor. Beginning with his three-point play at the 9:30 mark, the Bowling Green Kentucky native scored 15 of his game-high 32 points until his departure to a standing ovation with 2:49 to play. He finished with 12 rebounds as well, his second straight double-double and the 30th of his Austin Peay State University career.
After being outscored by 43 points (106-63) over the previous five games, Austin Peay State University’s reserves rose to the occasion against UT Martin, outscoring the Skyhawk second-unit 24-6. Djurisic’s career-high 11 points were supplemented by an additional career night from freshman Alec Woodard, who scored nine on a trio of three-pointers.
Austin Peay State University Notably
The win is Austin Peay State University’s fifth straight against UT Martin; it’s the longest in the series since the Govs won six in a row from 2010-12.
The APSU Govs are back above .500 on the season for the first time since opening night.
Paez snagged a career-high five steals, the first five-steal performance by a Gov since December 8th, 2018 against Calvary (Zach Glotta and Jarrett Givens). He equaled his career high with seven assists to just one turnover, and now boasts a robust 4.8-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio since joining the starting lineup four games ago. He also set a career-high with five rebounds.
UT Martin’s three made three-pointers equaled Oakland City (November 5th) and South Carolina State (November 25th) for fewest by an Austin Peay opponent this season.
Austin Peay State University is now hitting 52.7 percent (254-for-482) in its eight victories this season. The Govs are now 7-0 when outshooting their opponents in 2019-20.
This is Austin Peay State University’s first win this season when taking and making fewer free-throws than its opponent.
Taylor now has three or more combined steals and blocks in seven of 15 games this season.
In a combined 141 minutes of action, APSU’s starters combined to commit just five turnovers.
Dove rewarded Stewart’s faith in his ability to avoid a fourth foul with 30 points and 12 rebounds, both equaling highs by an Austin Peay State University opponent in 2019-20.
Djurisic earned career-highs in points (11), field goals (5), field goal percentage (5-for-6, .833), rebounds (four) and minutes (18).
The Govs are 2-0 to start the league schedule for the third year in a row.
APSU’s 44 points in the paint were the most by the Govs against a Division I opponent this season.
The Govs moved to 6-0 this season when scoring at least 80 points.
Woodard hit 3-of-4 attempts from beyond the arc after hitting 4-of-25 to open the season.
The Governors 11 steals are their most against a Division I opponent since Feb. 7, 2019 against SIU Edwardsville.
The Govs are plus-3.9 on turnover margin over the last eight games and plus-3.8 in rebounding margin over the last six games.
Austin Peay State University has won 10 straight at home for the first time since an 11-game streak from 2007-08.
Longtime public address announcer Steve Williard called his 500th game for Austin Peay
Taylor passed Fly Williams for 11th all-time with 1,559 points. With 14 field goals, he passed Lenny Manning and moved into the top-10 all-time with 598 and passed Bubba Wells to move into 10th all-time in rebounds with 723.
Coaching Quotables with APSU head coach Matt Figger
On the differences between the halves
“We came out and played like an immature team that first half. Guys were talking about being sore and this and that with the one-day turnaround, and I wanted those guys to learn. They were decent in practice yesterday and decent in shootaround, and we had three starters come out with no emotional energy. Djurisic and Woodard gave us life off the bench, and in a timeout Terry took over and showed some leadership.”
“He’s embracing the role of leader more, even if he doesn’t want to take it. He’s got to. [Assistant coach] Darryl Dora does a really good job of preparing him and mentoring him, and that’s a guy who played for Bobby Knight, played in a Sweet Sixteen, played overseas and coached in a national championship game last year. Sometimes you’re thrust into a situation you don’t want to be in, and he [Taylor] has embraced it and understands that if you want to be a Ja Morant or a Dylan Windler, you have to put the team on your back and that means more than just scoring points. You’ve got to hold guys as accountable as you hold yourself.”
Next Up for Austin Peay State University Govs
The Govs embark upon their first road trip of the 2019-20 season when the Austin Peay State University basketball team travels to Tennessee Tech, January 9th, to take on the Golden Eagles as the start of a four-game trek away from the Dunn Center.