TN Sports 360

Govs off to best start since 2002-03 season

APSU Athletics Communications

By Casey Crigger

APSU Athletics Communications

CHARLESTON, Ill. – There were no fans in the building, but that didn’t matter as the Austin Peay brought all the energy head coach David Midlick could ask for and powered their way to a 77-68 win over Eastern Illinois, Saturday, at Lantz Arena.

Austin Peay (7-2, 5-0) is off to its best start in Ohio Valley Conference play since the 2002-03 season, when Susie Gardner led the Governors to a perfect 16-0 mark in OVC action. Today it was Tahanee Bennell who led the Govs, going 4-4 from three-point range in the second half en route to a team-high 14 points in the contest.

The Governors couldn’t have asked for a better start to today’s contest against Eastern Illinois (3-7, 1-4), with back-to-back buckets from Kemia Ward and then a Brandi Ferby steal that led to a Brianah Ferby fast-break layup to go up 6-0. After back-to-back baskets for the Panthers, Brianah Ferby drilled a three-pointer and D’Shara Booker worked her way to bucket in the post to put the Govs up seven with 5:40 left in the first quarter.

With 2:19 left in the period, Maggie Knowles finally found some open space and connected on her first triple of the contest to push the Governors lead to double-digits for the first time in the game. When Eastern Illinois’ Abby Wahl answered the Knowles three-pointer with a triple of her own, the Govs wasted no time getting the three points back, as Nina De Leon Negron buried a three of her own with 1:19 left in the period to extend the lead back to ten.

Wahl would score the final points of the first quarter, but the Governors held a 19-11 lead after the first ten minutes of action. The second quarter was the only period of the game where Eastern Illinois was able to outscore Austin Peay. Wahl scored seven of her game-high 19 points, but the Panthers were only able to trim the Govs lead to four, and Austin Peay took a 33-29 lead into the locker room at halftime.

In the third period it was Austin Peay’s three-point shooting that carried the load on the offense end, as the Governors shot 62.5 percent from behind the arc and drilled five triples in the frame. It was Bennell who sparked the three-point barrage for the Govs, connecting from deep on back-to-back possessions to stretch the lead to 8 with 6:23 left in the quarter.

After the Panthers were able to cut the Govs lead to just a single point, Brandi Ferby buried her only three-pointer of the contest to get the offense in rhythm again. Two possessions later, De Leon Negron knocked down her second three of the contest to put the Governors back up by eight with 2:22 left in the period.

Following a pair of made free throws by the Panthers, Bennell finished what she started, connecting on her third three-pointer of the quarter to give Austin Peay a 53-44 lead. But Eastern Illinois would not go away, and the Panthers scored four-straight points to close out the quarter, trimming the Govs advantage to just five points.

After both teams traded free throws to start the final quarter, Knowles stepped into a three-pointer from way outside the arc, igniting the Austin Peay bench and pushing the lead back to eight. But the Panthers had an answer once again, with Morgan Litwiller converting an old-fashioned three-point play to equal the Knowles triple.

With 4:24 left to play, Bennell drew an offensive foul and then drilled her fourth three-pointer of the day on the ensuing offensive possession. The Governors would go on to knock down ten free throws in the final 2:30 second of the contest, putting the game on ice and picking up their fifth-straight win to start OVC play.

The Difference  

Austin Peay won the turnover battle and knocked down seven more three-pointers than Eastern Illinois, but the difference was the Govs energy. Whether they were on the floor or on the bench, all 15 of the Governors brought the heat and that was the difference in the eyes of your humble narrator.

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