Jacksonville, AL – When the story for the Austin Peay State University (APSU) men’s basketball team at the end of the 2019-20 season is written, the Jacksonville State game will be the turning point.
Down by 19 more than halfway through the first half, the APSU Govs showed the heart, grit and tenacity of champions. Veterans stepped up. Young players grew up. And in the second half, the Govs showed up and rallied for a huge 71-67 win to remain unbeaten in Ohio Valley Conference play.
The start was not pretty for the Govs. After allowing the Govs to take monster leads early in each of the last two meetings here, Jacksonville State came out determined not to be the team clawing back in this meeting. By the first media timeout, the Gamecocks led 14-0 and the Govs were searching for answers.
By the six-minute mark, the deficit was 19 points; although the offense had finally sparked to life thanks to Evan Hinson providing some instant-offense off the bench, the Gamecocks were still controlling the tempo.
And then Austin Peay State University started getting stops, kept getting buckets and took all the momentum into halftime. The Govs ended the half on a 19-7 run thanks to six points from Jordyn Adams and a pair of threes from Sita Conteh and Pavle Djurisic, who helped Hinson bring some life from the reserves. The deficit entering halftime was still 10 points, but it was certainly more manageable than the near-20 point deficit the APSU Govs were facing.
From the first moments in the second half, it was evident that the momentum remained firmly with the Govs. On Austin Peay State University’s first possession, Carlos Paez hit a three to cut the deficit to seven.
It would not be the last time Paez factors into this story.
In less than seven minutes, the Govs cut the lead down to a single point, helped by another Conteh three and triple from freshman Alec Woodard. But Jacksonville State did not fold easily—the Gamecocks took off an 11-2 run of their own to push the deficit back to 10 with 8:48 to play.
On the ensuing possession, Paez hit another three. He repeated the feat on the next possession. And the next. The one-man 9-2 run cut the Gamecock lead to three with seven minutes to play. The dream of a comeback was quickly becoming a reality.
When Jacksonville State’s Elijah Harden rained in a three to push the Jacksonville State advantage back to five points, it was Djurisic who answered on the other end to once again make it a one-possession game. The teams traded stops before a Marek Welsch layup was answered by Paez’s fifth and final three of the night to make it a one-point game. The littlest guy on the floor continually showed up big when it mattered most, finishing with a game-high 16 points, all in the second half.
After a pair of Taylor free-throws finally tied the game, the APSU Govs took the lead for good on the ensuing possession, when Paez stole the ball, drove the floor and found Djurisic for the hoop and foul. The big man from Montenegro gave the Govs a lead they would never relinquish, as Austin Peay State University hit 6-of-10 free-throws in the last minute to fend off the Gamecocks.
The Govs protected the rock, committing just 11 turnovers to Jacksonville State’s 20. That led to 20 points off turnover for Austin Peay State University, compared to just 12 for the Gamecocks.
The win is Austin Peay State University’s fourth straight against the Gamecocks, longest since an 11-game streak from 2007-12.
Adams equaled his career high with five assists.
Twenty-nine three-point attempts is a single-game high for the APSU Govs, while 11 makes equals the program’s season-best.
After being held scoreless against Tennessee Tech, Austin Peay State University’s bench unit combined for 26 points against Jacksonville State, most since the North Florida contest, December 7th.
Paez’s career-high scoring night also marked the first time this season a Governor other than Terry Taylor or Adams has led the team in scoring. He also notched the first five three-pointer game by a APSU Gov in 2019-20.
The win is Austin Peay State University’s first this season when shooting below 45 percent from the floor, having fewer points in the paint than its opponent or being outrebounded by its opponent.
Woodard set a career-best with three steals.
Austin Peay State University is 4-0 to start OVC play for the third straight season.
Coaching Quotables with APSU Head Coach Matt Figger
On not calling a timeout during Jacksonville State’s game-opening run
“I wasn’t going to bail them out. I was going to make them have to figure this out. I was going to use this as a teaching tool, and we were either going to stand our ground or get blown out. I was not going to call that timeout; they were going to have to learn to play out of it.”
On the bench unit
“[Woodard] was tremendous for us. He really gave their point guard fits, and that’s where the game shifted. Sita gave us a ton of energy, and Pavle provided a big spark in the first and second half. This was a big-boy game; this was a man’s game.”
On the comeback
“I’m so elated for my young guys. [Jacksonville State] did a great job building walls around Terry to keep him from getting the ball, and Jordyn didn’t have his best game either. But Carlos Paez in the second half… woo.”
Next Up For Austin Peay State University
The second half of this four-game league road trip takes the Austin Peay State University men’s basketball team to Cape Girardeau and Martin, beginning Thursday against Southeast Missouri at the Show Me Center.