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No longer alone in first place

Robert Smith/Tnsports360.com

By Colby Wilson

APSU Athletics Communications

CHARLESTON, Ill.—The final week of the regular season is going to be wild.

Austin Peay dropped an 83-80 overtime affair to Eastern Illinois in Lantz Arena, falling back into a tie for first in the Ohio Valley Conference with Murray State and Belmont. It makes next week, with contests against Morehead State and on the road at Murray State to conclude the regular season, of vital importance for the Govs.

The first half was a chess match. Neither team was able to grab a sizable upper hand, with a five-point lead the best the half had to offer. The Govs started slowly, needing Evan Hinson to provide another spark off the bench to truly get the offense in gear—he scored all seven of his points in the first nine minutes of action to jump-start an offense that was slow out of the gate.

Hinson and Terry Taylor kept the Govs in the game during the first half. Taylor picked up steam over the final 10 minutes of the frame, scoring nine of his 16 first-half points during that stretch, including a mid-half three and a layup with under two minutes to play to tie the game. The Govs would take a one-point lead into the break, up 35-34.

Notably absent from the first half roll call was Jordyn Adams, who struggled through an 0-for-6 mark from the floor in the first 20 minutes. He made up for it and then some in the second half, hitting five threes and pouring in 26 points, keying an 17-4 run with a trio of threes, including the last two on back-to-back possessions to put the Govs up 61-48.

Eastern Illinois overcame a 27-point deficit against Murray State, Thursday night; by comparison, a mere 13-point deficit can’t have been too daunting for the hosts, or at least it sure looked that way. From the 11:11 mark, when Adams’ fifth and final three splashed through, until 3:07 remained when Mack Smith tied the game with a layup, Eastern Illinois outscored the Govs 19-6 to tie it up. The Govs went the final 4:03 of regulation without a bucket, but Adams hit 6-of-7 at the free-throw line to keep pace.

After George Dixon hit a pair of free-throws to tie the game with 29 seconds left, the Govs were able to hold for the final shot. Adams drove and got off a quality shot, but it rolled off and overtime ensued.

Taylor started the extra session off with a block on one end and a putback on the other to give the Govs an early lead. After some Eastern Illinois free-throws, another Taylor jumper put the Govs up one at the midpoint of the frame and yet another Taylor bucket put the Govs ahead three with less than two minutes to play.

That would be Austin Peay’s final make from the floor. Josiah Wallace took over down the stretch for Eastern Illinois, scoring six of the Panthers final seven points, getting into the lane to convert the only two shots Eastern Illinois made from the floor in the frame.

After Wallace knocked down a pair to give Eastern Illinois the lead, the Panthers had a chance to put the game on ice but Marvin Johnson missed two free-throws to give the Govs life. Austin Peay got two looks, one from three and one from the right elbow, but found nothing but iron and George Dixon secured the board. Once Dixon missed the back half of his free-throws with the Govs down by three, Austin Peay had one last gasp three attempt but it went wanting and the hosts escaped with an overtime win.

The Difference

Ball control. Eastern Illinois committed just nine turnovers and forced 20 out of the Govs, Austin Peay’s first 20-turnover night since Dec. 3, 2019. Those 20 turnovers turned into 26 points for the Panthers.

Notably

  • The Govs have now lost back-to-back games at Lantz Arena for the first time since 2001-03.
  • The Govs are at plus-5.8 in rebounding margin during league play after outrebounding Eastern Illinois, 41-34.
  • This was Austin Peay’s first overtime loss since Nov. 24, 2018 at Ohio.
  • The 14 points in the paint was the lowest total by the Govs since Nov. 20, 2019 at Vanderbilt.
  • Adams’ fourth career 30-point games included 12 free-throws, a team season-high.
  • Abaev has pulled down double-digit rebounds in four straight games after securing 11 against Eastern Illinois. He’s averaging 9.0 boards per night over the last nine games.
  • This was Austin Peay’s first loss in 2019-20 when outshooting its opponent and its first loss when scoring 80 since March 2, 2019 against Murray State.
  • Adams is averaging 22.0 points over the last four games. With his performance, he’s now the third freshman in program history with 500 points in his first season and the third freshman with more than 50 made three-pointers in his first campaign.
  • Taylor is now averaging 21.0 points and 15.2 rebounds on his six-game streak of double-doubles. He played a career-high 45 minutes on Saturday.
  • Freshman Alec Woodard finished with a career-high four assists.
  • The Panthers were the first team to outscore Austin Peay in second-chance points since Jan. 16, 2020 at Southeast Missouri.
  • It was helped by the fact that Smith and Wallace, in deference to Senior Day, both came off the bench, but the 53 points put up by Eastern Illinois were the most against the Govs this season.
  • Milestone Watch: Taylor became the sixth player in program history with 700 career made field goals. He also tied Adrian Henning for fifth all-time in career blocked shots with 105. In single-season news, he became the seventh player in program history with 300 rebounds in a single season.

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