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Back to work: Govs must be weary of Colonels

Robert Smith/Tnsports360.com

By Colby Wilson

APSU Athletics Communications

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. — Fresh off one of the program’s biggest wins of the Matt Figger Era, Austin Peay now turns its attention to an upstart Eastern Kentucky unit hungry for its own signature victory when the two teams meet 4 p.m., Saturday, in the Dunn Center.

The Govs are tied atop the league standings and own the first tiebreaker with Murray State based on their win Thursday night. But Eastern Kentucky is a game behind at 10-3 in the league and could further complicate matters if the Colonels score an upset against the Govs on Saturday.

Game sponsor Altra Federal Union will sponsor a pink Govs shirt giveaway in conjunction with Austin Peay’s Breast Cancer Awareness PEAYnk Game. At halftime, three members will be inducted into the Red Coat Society, with a fourth—Ron Morton—who was inducted last year also set to be honored. Austin Peay’s basketball alumni in attendance also will be recognized during the game.

Scouting the Colonels

How does Eastern Kentucky do it? The Colonels are last in the Ohio Valley Conference in shooting (41.1 percent from the floor) and rebounding margin (minus-7.0), coupled with a difficulty protecting the rim (league-worst 2.1 blocks per game). Yet the Colonels are a game behind the Govs for the top spot in the league. How?

The Colonels took on some big foes outside the league, facing nationally-ranked Kentucky and Louisville, CUSA challengers Western Kentucky and FIU and two-time defending Horizon League champion Northern Kentucky. Those contests prepared A.W. Hamilton’s squad for the rigors of the OVC (and probably contributed to some of the numerical discrepancies); since league play began, the Colonels have not lost back-to-back games and rocketed up the standings after closing non-league play on an eight-game losing streak.

Eastern Kentucky’s defense is its best offense. The Colonels are one of the nation’s best at forcing turnovers, owing to an all-out assault spanning the full 94 feet of the court. The Colonels force nearly 19 turnovers per night, including 9.5 steals per game–both ranking Eastern Kentucky among the nation’s top-10 defensively. Ball control will be of the utmost importance, as will capitalizing on Austin Peay’s built-in advantages on the glass; the minus-7.0 rebounding margin is among the nation’s worst and should lead to big days on the boards for Terry Taylor and Eli Abaev.

The Colonels are going to fire away from three, averaging 8.6 threes per game led by Ty Taylor (2.4) and Jomaru Brown (1.6). However, the Colonels aren’t particularly efficient from deep, hitting just 32.4 percent from beyond the arc.

Last Time Out Against Eastern Kentucky

Terry Taylor put up 37 points, including 27 in the first half, but the Govs as a team just could not find the range all night, shooting an uncharacteristic 39.4 percent from the field in an 82-80 loss at McBrayer Arena, Feb. 28, 2019. The Govs were in it to the very end; a foul call with 5.6 seconds left and two Nick Mayo free-throws put the Colonels up two, and Taylor’s 22-foot look at the buzzer bounced off and allowed the Colonels to survive on their home court.

Keep An Eye On…

  • A win would be Austin Peay’s 15th straight home win, longest streak since a 28-game home win streak from 2002-04. The Govs 14-game home winning streak is the 12th-longest active streak in Division I.
  • Taylor is the only Division I player in the nation currently leading his league in scoring and rebounding, at 22.1 points and 10.5 boards, respectively. He’s also one of four qualified Division I players averaging better than 20 points and 10 rebounds per contest this season.
  • Since the start of league play, Austin Peay is controlling the glass and maintaining possession–two keys to league success. The Govs are at plus-5.1 in average rebound margin and plus-3.2 in turnover margin since OVC play began, Jan. 2.
  • Taylor is one of five active Division I players who has shot better than 50 percent from the floor (54.3), 35 percent from three (35.6) and 70 percent at the line (72.0) for his career.
  • This contest will pit the league’s top two teams in ball control against one another; Eastern Kentucky leads the league with a plus-4.62 turnover margin, while Austin Peay’s plus-2.96 mark ranks second.
  • A win would give Austin Peay 12 league wins in three straight seasons for the first time since 2006-08.

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