Clarksville, TN – In the season opener on Tuesday night inside the Winfield Dunn Center, the Austin Peay State University (APSU) men’s basketball team pulled away late to secure an 86-79 victory over UT Southern. The win marked the first career victory for first-year head coach Nate James.
In the 86-79 victory the Govs had four score in double figures led by redshirt senior Tariq Silver with 20 points. Silver was 6-of-7 from the field and a perfect 3-for-3 from long distance. The Clarksville, Tennessee, native collected his fifth career 20-point game as Silver scored 16 points in the second half alone.
Behind Silver was junior Cameron Copeland with 18 points on 7-of-15 shooting from the field. Copeland also tallied six rebounds to go along with three assists and one block. The Douglasville, Ga., native was just 1-of-5 from long distance but a perfect 3-for-3 from the free-throw line.
Rounding out the double-digit scoring was freshman Elijah Hutchins-Everett with 17 points and junior Carlos Paez with 12. To go along with his career-high 17 points, Hutchins-Everett also led the Govs with eight rebounds, four of which came on the offensive glass. Paez in 32 minutes of action was 3-of-8 from the field with all three field goals coming from long distance.
As a team the Govs shot exactly 50 percent from the field while shooting 39.1 percent from long distance. Austin Peay State University was at the free-throw line early and often, going 19-of-26 (.731) from the charity stripe. APSU outrebounded UT Southern, 31-29 with the Govs holding a 10-7 advantage on the offensive glass.
Defensively the Govs forced 14 turnovers in the season opener, scoring 18 points off of UT Southern mistakes. Both teams scored 32 points in the paint while Austin Peay State University had 17 fast break points to UT Southern’s 14. The Firehawks as a team shot 54.4 percent from the field and knocked down a staggering 13 three-pointers.
The Govs got off to a fast start thanks in large part to Silver who recorded back-to-back steals resulting in fast break lay-ups. Along with Silver, sharpshooter Paez knocked down the first of his three three-pointers on the night to give APSU a 7-0 lead just two minutes into the game.
Despite the early onslaught, UT Southern responded back with an 11-2 run over the next three minutes to earn an 11-9 advantage at the 15-minute mark. The two teams then traded baskets over the next six minutes as neither team led by more than three through the halfway point of the first half. The Govs capitalized on a three-pointer from Hutchins-Everett to propel back in front, 21-18 with nine minutes to go.
Late in the first half, Copeland embarked on a personal 5-0 run as the APSU Govs made three straight field goals to take a 34-29 lead with 2:55 remaining.
However, UT Southern continued to claw its way back down the stretch and cut the Govs lead down to four with a minute left. To end the first half, Austin Peay State University connected on four of its final six field goals and had a 40-36 lead heading into the locker room.
It was all Firehawks to begin the second half as UT Southern embarked on an 11-2 run and made four of its first five field goals to take a 48-45 lead with 16:06 remaining. UT Southern earned its largest lead of the night with 14:47 remaining as the Firehawks made five straight field goals to hold a 55-48 advantage.
The turning point of the game came when Tariq Silver stepped on to the floor nearing the halfway point of the second half. Trailing by seven, Silver rattled off 11 straight points with back-to-back-to-back three-pointers to give the Govs a 59-57 lead with 12 minutes remaining. UT Southern rallied with a coast-to-coast lay-up to regain the lead before Paez knocked down a wide open three to push the Govs back in front at the halfway point.
The two teams went back and forth late in the second half before the Govs went on a 5-0 run highlighted by an acrobatic and-one from Copeland to earn a 67-65 advantage. Austin Peay found its rhythm offensively and connected on four straight field goals to pull ahead 76-70 with 3:10 remaining.
Late in the game UT Southern continued to fight and trimmed the APSU lead down to four with a minute left. That was as close as the Firehawks got down the stretch as the Govs made six of their final eight field goals and three of their final four from the free-throw line to secure an 86-79 victory.
Austin Peay State University has won six straight home openers and four straight season openers.
Since 1960, APSU is 47-15 in home openers
Austin Peay State University head coach Nate James becomes the first APSU head coach to win his debut since 1983.
The Govs are now 2-0 all-time against UT Southern.
The APSU Govs starters combined to score 76 of the team’s total 86 points
Tariq Silver registered his 24th career game scoring in double figures
Quotes from APSU Coach Nate James
On Performance in Season Opener:
“Every game is going to be hard fought. Our thing is we have to go out every night and play hard, play smart and play together. We faced an opponent today that was ready to play but I thought we did some good things and responded.”
On first career victory as head coach:
“Always feels good to win. Every win feels outstanding. When you play somebody, there’s always a chance they can beat you, so when you win, it’s always a celebration. This was my first and I’m very excited, and we are going to move on and try to get the next one.”
Next UP For APSU Men’s Basketball
The Austin Peay State University men’s basketball team begins a five-game road stretch beginning on Friday, November 12th in Carbondale, IL, against Southern Illinois. Tip-off is set for 7:00pm.
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UT Southern 79, Austin Peay 86
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