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APSU erases late deficit to beat Morehead State

Robert Smith/APSU Athletics Communications

By Dylan Schwartz

APSU Athletics Communications

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Austin Peay earned its first 2-0 start to Ohio Valley Conference play since the 2015-16 season, defeating Morehead State in a nail biter, 81-80, at the Dunn Center Saturday.

Down seven in the fourth quarter with just under four minutes to go, the Governors (7-6, 2-0 OVC) closed the game on a 10-2 run to end up with their first victory at home over the Eagles (10-5, 1-1 OVC) since the 2011-12 season.

Unlike the blazing hot start in the game against Eastern Kentucky on Thursday, both teams took a little bit to going, assumingly feeling each other out as each team tried to assert its dominance. The Eagles seized early control of the game, with an Aliyah Jeune three sparking a 7-0 Morehead run as they led by as many as eight in the first quarter. The Eagles, who came into the game ranked in the top 10 in the country in scoring offense at almost 85 points per game, ramped up the pace tremendously. The Govs weathered the storm, as Morehead hit their next eight shots from the field after starting one of four. After a run in which APSU did not score a field goal for almost four minutes, Maggie Knowles hit the first three for the Govs at the 3:35 mark in the first period, scoring seven of the next nine Austin Peay points. Brandi Ferby also hit a three and then a layup on the ensuing possession to tie the game at 18 and 20, respectively, but Morehead State led 22-20 after the first period.

The Govs used their momentum at the end of the first, as Arielle Gonzalez-Varner scored the first six points of the quarter to give the Govs their first lead since the opening two minutes. The Govs used a 10-of-12 shooting stretch across the first and second quarters to get back in the game after starting just 2-of-9. The Eagles responded with an efficient 7-0 run before Keisha Gregory scored five of her first-half 14 points on back-to-back possessions to reclaim the lead once again. It was a back-and-forth affair in the first half, with the score being tied 10 separate times and having seven lead changes. The Govs seemed to be taking the lead into the break, but Jeune launched an astonishingly deep three-pointer to give Morehead a 46-45 advantage.

Morehead came out of the break reenergized, going on a quick spurt that forced a timeout from coach David Midlick. Much like the start of the game, the Govs endured a tough shooting patch, going 1-of-10 at one point, but did not let Morehead run away. After the Eagles went up seven, Knowles had a putback and then hit a pair of free throws to cut it to five. Knowles had a new career-high with 14 points to go along with seven rebounds as the Govs went into the final frame just down three points.

The offenses for both teams found it difficult to score to the start the fourth quarter. The Govs did a better defensive job on Jeune, who just had six points in the second half, but Miranda Crockett led Morehead with 16 points, including eight in the fourth. After a Govs turnover, Jeune finished on the break to put the Eagles up seven with 3:49 left, but that was when the Govs made their run. Brandi Ferby hit a huge three with just over two minutes left as she cut the Morehead lead to just one point. The Govs thought they had a stop and a rebound but Nieja Crawford was called for a questionable foul as she fouled out of the game. The Govs got another stop though and Brianah Ferby hit one free throw to tie the game at 78.

The back-and-forth affair continued as Morehead hit one of two from the line before Gregory, who finished two points shy of her career-high with 25 points, hit a pair of free throws to give the Govs their first lead of the second half. Brianah stole the inbounds pass out of the timeout, but the Govs could not advance the ball in the ten second window, giving the ball back to Morehead. Crockett tied the game at 80 with a free throw with eight seconds left, before a long pass down the court to Brianah forced Morehead to foul her. She stepped up to the line, made the first, but missed the second as the Eagles grabbed the ball and immediately called timeout with 3.9 seconds left. Darianne Seward had a good open look at the basket around the free throw line, but she was forced to shoot off-balanced and the ball hit the rim and bounced out as the Govs earned a crucial win.

The Govs are back in action next week as they travel to Southeast Missouri next Thursday.

Notably

  • The Govs earned their first 2-0 start in OVC play since the 2015-16 season.
  • Maggie Knowles set a new career-high with 14 points.
  • The win was the first over Morehead at home since the 2011-12 season.
  • The Govs have scored 181 points over the last two games, the most over any two-game stretch this season.
  • Keisha Gregory had a season-high eight rebounds.
  • The Govs had the same amount of free-throw attempts in the fourth quarter (16) than the first three quarters combined.
  • The Govs had a field goal percentage of 42.6%, three-point percentage of 38.5%, and free-throw percentage of 75.0% in the game, all better than their season averages coming in.

Midlick’s Musings

“Being down seven in the fourth quarter, we maintained our composure. I didn’t think we tried to do much offensively, moved the ball around, got good looks at the basket, and got crucial stops down the stretch.”

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