TN Sports 360

APSU holds off Omaha in opener

APSU Athletics Communications

By Colby Wilson

APSU Athletics Communications

ESTERO, Fla.—Let’s acknowledge that today was special.

Since March 12, there had been no college basketball. Nothing has been guaranteed since that day forward in college sports—not schedules, not travel, not games, none of the things that the players and coaches work and sweat day and night for ahead of the season. Every guy who took the court across the nation on Wednesday has to feel fortunate to be back doing what they love, and based the young men donning uniforms with Austin Peay across the chest were no different.

For Austin Peay, the return to the court was a return to what has become pretty standard during the Matt Figger era—winning. Behind a Terry Taylor double-double, the Govs overcame a gritty effort from Omaha to take a season-opening 72-66 win against the Summit League darkhorse to open their stay at the #BeachBubble Gulf Coast Showcase.

The Govs jumped out to an early lead, with a steal-and-score by Mike Peake setting the tone and a drive-and-dish from Carlos Paez to Alec Woodard in the corner to make it 7-2 early.

Austin Peay controlled tempo for most of the first half, but Omaha finally found something that clicked late in the opening session. After the Govs lead swelled to 12 points with less than five minutes to play in the half, the Mavericks closed on a 12-1 run to make it a one-point game at the half.

The second half was a similar story: the Govs controlled the pace and the game in many respects, but the Mavericks were not willing to go away. It appeared as though the game changed midway through the half. A 6-0 run began on a Taylor jumper in the lane, continued when Jordyn Adams picked a Mavericks pocket at midcourt and scored the layup and ended on Taylor muscling up in the paint for two. In less than a minute, a nine-point lead bloomed to 15 points and the Govs looked to be in control.

But once again, those plucky Mavericks were unwilling to fade. Facing a 15-point deficit at the eight-minute mark, Omaha embarked on an 23-13 run to cut it to five after a Marlon Ruffin three with 15 seconds to play, but Reginald Gee’s late-game free-throw shooting helped the Govs stave off their opponent—the grad transfer was 6-for-6 from the stripe in the game’s final 34 seconds.

Taylor was the focal point for the Govs, pouring in a game-high 21 points on 9-for-17 shooting to go along with his team-high 12 boards—score it double-double No. 1 for his senior campaign and No. 44 in his stellar career. In addition to 18 points, Adams procured a career-high four steals. Rounding out a trio in double figures, Gee scored 14 points in his return following a season-ending knee injury in 2019-20.

The Difference

It’s surprising to spotlight perimeter shooting here, since the Govs were a relatively pedestrian 33 percent from deep (6-for-18). But compared to Omaha, which hit only three of its 12 attempts from beyond the arc and didn’t make one triple until 5:38 remained in the game, the Govs were shooting the cover off the ball from deep.

Notably

  • The Govs have won three straight regular-season openers for the first time since 2002-04. Austin Peay still has not lost a regular-season opener at a neutral site since 1989.
  • Adams scored 16 of his 18 points in the second half.
  • Austin Peay’s 20 points off turnover were its most in a road/neutral site game since Jan. 11, 2020 against Jacksonville State.
  • Gee’s 14 points equaled his career-high as a Gov, set against Vanderbilt last season. Included in that number were a career-high seven made free-throws.
  • The Govs are now 106-102 all-time in neutral-site contests, including 8-6 during Figger’s tenure.
  • Sophomore point guard Carlos Paez set a career-high with nine assists.
  • In his Austin Peay debut, forward Mike Peake blocked four shots, equaling the season-high a year ago by a Gov.
  • In just nine minutes of playing time, the Govs were plus-11 with Devon McCain on the court.
  • Making their Austin Peay debuts in this contest were Peake, McCain, Elton Walker, Tai’reon Joseph, Merdy Mongozi and DJ Peavy.
  • Milestone Watch—Career: Taylor passed Drake Reed for third all-time in made field goals with 748. He also moved within one steal of being the fifth player in program history with 100 career steals and 100 career blocked shots.

Coaching Quotables with Head Coach Matt Figger

On the game

“We were Jekyll and Hyde all day. We played really good basketball at times, we were good in spurts, good enough to grab big leads and then we started playing me-ball. We didn’t take care of the ball, we made lazy, soft, careless passes. They’re a good team; they weren’t going to beat themselves. We have to learn from this that when you get that type of lead against a team some people think are going win their league, you have to put them away. I credit [Omaha] for not going away.”

On Gee and McCain returning

“Bits and pieces were good. I thought they took some bad shots, but they’ll get into the swing of things soon.”

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