Charleston, IL – There were no fans in the building, but that didn’t matter as the Austin Peay State University (APSU) women’s basketball team brought all the energy head coach David Midlick could ask for and powered their way to a 77-68 win over Eastern Illinois, Saturday, at Lantz Arena.
Austin Peay State University (7-2, 5-0) is off to its best start in Ohio Valley Conference play since the 2002-03 season, when Susie Gardner led the Governors to a perfect 16-0 mark in OVC action.
Today it was Tahanee Bennell who led the Govs, going 4-4 from three-point range in the second half en route to a team-high 14 points in the contest.
The APSU Governors couldn’t have asked for a better start to today’s contest against Eastern Illinois (3-7, 1-4), with back-to-back buckets from Kemia Ward and then a Brandi Ferby steal that led to a Brianah Ferby fast-break layup to go up 6-0.
After back-to-back baskets for the Panthers, Brianah Ferby drilled a three-pointer and D’Shara Booker worked her way to bucket in the post to put the Govs up seven with 5:40 left in the first quarter.
With 2:19 left in the period, Maggie Knowles finally found some open space and connected on her first triple of the contest to push the APSU Governors lead to double-digits for the first time in the game.
When Eastern Illinois’ Abby Wahl answered the Knowles three-pointer with a triple of her own, the Govs wasted no time getting the three points back, as Nina De Leon Negron buried a three of her own with 1:19 left in the period to extend the lead back to ten.
Wahl would score the final points of the first quarter, but the Governors held a 19-11 lead after the first ten minutes of action. The second quarter was the only period of the game where Eastern Illinois was able to outscore Austin Peay State University.
In the third period, it was Austin Peay State University’s three-point shooting that carried the load on the offense end, as the Governors shot 62.5 percent from behind the arc and drilled five triples in the frame. It was Bennell who sparked the three-point barrage for the APSU Govs, connecting from deep on back-to-back possessions to stretch the lead to 8 with 6:23 left in the quarter.
After the Panthers were able to cut the Govs lead to just a single point, Brandi Ferby buried her only three-pointer of the contest to get the offense in rhythm again. Two possessions later, De Leon Negron knocked down her second three of the contest to put the Governors back up by eight with 2:22 left in the period.
Following a pair of made free throws by the Panthers, Bennell finished what she started, connecting on her third three-pointer of the quarter to give Austin Peay a 53-44 lead. But Eastern Illinois would not go away, and the Panthers scored four-straight points to close out the quarter, trimming the APSU Govs advantage to just five points.
After both teams traded free throws to start the final quarter, Knowles stepped into a three-pointer from way outside the arc, igniting the Austin Peay bench and pushing the lead back to eight. But the Panthers had an answer once again, with Morgan Litwiller converting an old-fashioned three-point play to equal the Knowles triple.
With 4:24 left to play, Bennell drew an offensive foul and then drilled her fourth three-pointer of the day on the ensuing offensive possession. The Governors would go on to knock down ten free throws in the final 2:30 second of the contest, putting the game on ice and picking up their fifth-straight win to start OVC play.
Austin Peay State University won the turnover battle and knocked down seven more three-pointers than Eastern Illinois, but the difference was the Govs energy.
Whether they were on the floor or on the bench, all 15 of the APSU Governors brought the heat and that was the difference in the eyes of your humble narrator.
Austin Peay State University snapped a three-game losing streak to Eastern Illinois and improved their lead in the all-time series, 30-22.
The Governors are on a five-game OVC winning streak for the first time since 2011, when Carrie Daniel’s team won five-straight games from February 3rd to February 19th.
The APSU Govs knocked down double-digit three-pointers for the second-straight game and the sixth time this season.
Austin Peay State University forced 20 Eastern Illinois turnovers, the Governors have now forced their opponent to turn the ball over 20+ times in five games this season.
Despite Eastern Illinois having the OVC’s top rebounder in Abby Wahl, the Panthers only won the rebounding battle by one, 28-27, and the Govs were +7 on the offensive glass.
Tahanee Bennell led the Govs with a season-high 14 points and four three-pointers, it was the fourth time in her career, and the first time this season she has led the way in scoring.
Bennell was perfect from the floor in the second half, going 4-4 from three-point range in the final 20 minutes.
With a team-high three assists, Bennell led the Govs in helpers for the eighth time in her career and first time this season.
Kelen Kenol grabbed five rebounds to led the Governors on the glass for the second time this season and the fifth time in her career.
Austin Peay 77, Eastern Illinois 68
Up Next for APSU Women’s Basketball
The Austin Peay State University women’s basketball team just passed the midway point of a five-game road swing and will be back in action when they take on UT Martin in a 5:00pm, January 14th contest at the Elam Center. The Govs will then wrap up their road trip with a 2:00pm, January 16th tilt against Southeast Missouri. For news and schedule updates, check back at LetsGoPeay.com or follow the Governor women’s basketball Twitter page (@AustinPeayWBB).