Evansville, IN – There is no easy way to talk about ending a season, and there’s no easy way to bring closure to a brilliant career.
But with Austin Peay State University men’s basketball team’s 70-67 loss to Eastern Kentucky in the 2021 Ohio Valley Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament, we must face not only the end of the season but the final appearance of Terry Taylor in an Austin Peay uniform.
He and senior Reginald Gee went out firing in a tremendous late-night affair from the Ford Center against the third-seeded Colonels, who needed every single possession to fend off the Govs.
After a pair of battles against the Colonels earlier in the season, the APSU Govs knew their foe and so did the Colonels. Eastern Kentucky was going to press on makes and run at every opportunity.
The Govs were going to feed Taylor and try to slow the Colonels down into a half-court offense. Strength on strength, our best against yours.
Early on, it was Austin Peay State University’s best that seemed to prevail. The Colonels focused on Taylor; didn’t necessarily matter, as he had nine of Austin Peay State University’s first 18 points, but even when they sold out to stop him, that freed up Elton Walker, Mike Peake, and others for buckets.
Eastern Kentucky began getting to the line when the Govs went up 18-10. Two for Wendell Green Jr., three for Tre King, and another for Devontae Blanton as part of a three-point play helped the Colonels tie the game following a 14-6 run that took the clock below the seven-minute mark.
With Taylor taking a breather, Peake shifted into playmaker mode and scored seven points over 2:31 late in the half, tipping in one bucket, hitting a three and then putting the ball on the floor and getting to the rim to put the Govs back in front.
Alec Woodard hit a pair of buckets late in the half to combat a pair of Colonel makes to send the game into halftime knotted at 37. It was a half of contradictions; the Govs outrebounded the Colonels by a dozen boards, but Eastern Kentucky forced Austin Peay State University into more than twice as many turnovers as the Colonels committed. King and Green carried the Colonels; Taylor and Peake did the early lifting for the Govs.
Strength on strength. Our best against yours.
The second half did not go the way the Govs would have wanted over the first eight minutes or so. The Govs turned the ball over five times and the Colonels hit eight of their first 12 shots from the floor to take a 55-47 lead into the under-12 minute media timeout.
Eastern Kentucky’s aggression, such a part of what the Colonels do and how they play, began to play to the strength of the Governors. Curt Lewis missed time with foul trouble. The Govs entered the bonus with 10:36 to play in the contest. Little things, perhaps, but things that helped the Govs close the deficit to three points at the seven-minute mark.
The Governors locked down the Colonels for nearly four minutes to briefly take a one-point lead after a Taylor jumper in the paint, fully erasing what was once an 11-point deficit. But Green Jr. hit a three and then was awarded three free-throws after being fouled on another three-point attempt, making two of three to put the Colonels back up six with 3:59 to play.
There was no quit to the Governors. With under three to play and time winding down on the shot clock, Carlos Paez flung a miracle toward the rim that somehow hit true. Peake hit one of two at the line with 2:23 to play and Gee sank a three from the right corner to put the Govs up with 1:40 to play.
The Colonels answered right back. Blanton hit a layup, and the Govs went back to the well with Gee, in an almost identical spot, on the ensuing possession. He missed but Paez grabbed the board to keep possession with the Govs, but a Blanton block and Green rebound put the freshman at the line with 12 seconds left. He made both to make it a three-point game.
The APSU Govs advanced into the frontcourt and called a timeout. Out of the timeout, the Govs got the ball into Taylor and endeavored to get a clean look as time wound down. But Eastern Kentucky stifled the perimeter and desperation Paez pull-up was deflected by Eastern Kentucky’s Michael Moreno to end the game and the season for the Govs.
For the game, the Colonels forced 17 Austin Peay State University turnovers, committing just nine themselves. Not only did this lead to an 18-10 advantage for Eastern Kentucky, but it also snapped a 30-game streak of Austin Peay State University forcing its opponent into at least 10 turnovers.
Reginald Gee closed his Austin Peay State University career by hitting 16 consecutive free-throws.
Peake hit at least 60 percent from the floor in 14 of 27 games this season. He also hit 64.6 percent (84-for-130) from the floor in his season’s final 19 games.
The loss is Austin Peay’s first in its league tournament opener since 2012.
Sophomore Alec Woodard equaled his career-high with six rebounds.
The loss is Austin Peay State University’s first this season when holding its opponent below 45 percent shooting from the floor and when outshooting its opponent.
Milestone Watch—Career: Terry Taylor finished his Austin Peay State University career by becoming the first player in program history with 2,500 career points.
He also joined Chris Horton and Josh Lewis as the only players in program history with 130 career blocks and 130 career steals.
Coaching Quotables with APSU Head Coach Matt Figger
“It was a hard-fought game. We were in a nip-and-tuck battle through the first half. Eastern Kentucky’s got a really good team. We got down and we could’ve laid down but we didn’t. We had a lot of opportunities; the kids fought, they were resilient. We did what we could to hold them under wraps. We did all the things we had to do statistically to win the game; the last 1:40 was a microcosm of this season.”
On Taylor’s impact
“He is the ultimate persona of what a student-athlete should look like. This is a guy who wasn’t a highly sought-after prospect out of high school and he shows that if you dedicate yourself, believe in yourself, and work really, there are great things that can happen for you as a person. He is what all student-athletes should strive to be.”
The Final Word from Terry Taylor
“When I first got here, I was 17. I didn’t know much about college basketball, Coach Figg or Austin Peay for that matter. But I loved it, and I wanted to build something with Coach Figg. Austin Peay is a second home to me. They welcomed me with open arms and I’m forever grateful for the opportunity to come in and try to change the culture and help the younger guys.”
“My main focus this year was to be a leader and bring the younger guys along. I’m forever grateful for my time in Clarksville and Austin Peay; it made me who I am, it made me more grateful, it made me hungrier to play the game. Austin Peay forever has my heart and I’m forever a Gov.”
Austin Peay 67, Eastern Kentucky 70