TN Sports 360

Rivalry renewed, Govs open OVC play with Racers

APSU Athletics Communications

By Colby Wilson

APSU Athletics Communications

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. —It may be early in the season, but it’s never too early to revisit one of college basketball’s best rivalries when Austin Peay takes on Murray State Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at the CFSB Center in Murray, Kentucky in the First Financial Battle for the Border.

As Austin Peay goes on a true road game for the first time in a season to beat all seasons, it will do so in one of the toughest environments in college hoops. Murray State has won 23 straight at the CFSB Center, a mark currently standing as the sixth-longest active home winning streak in Division I. The Governors, who were preseason co-favorites in the Ohio Valley Conference with the Racers, would receive a huge early boost in confidence by taking down their rivals on their own turf and snapping a lengthy bit of home supremacy for Murray State in the process.

Scouting the Racers

It’s Austin Peay and Murray State. As the saying goes, throw out the record book, even if the two teams have only played seven games combined so far in 2020-21.

Usually by the time the Govs and Racers get together, there is a narrative where league play is concerned and their respective places in it–is it a battle for league supremacy, is it for seeding in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament, or will someone be trying to play spoiler for the rivals’ league regular-season title bid? But instead, for the first time since 1999, Austin Peay and Murray State will open league play against one another, leaving the longtime foes playing one of their marquee games at a time when teams are usually still setting rotations and getting a feel for who can be trusted when the going gets tough. In many respects, this will be a baptism by fire for both squads.

But expect the usual faces to rise to the occasion. One day after Terry Taylor became the third member of Austin Peay’s 2000-point club, Tevin Brown reached 1,000 points for his Murray State career. KJ Williams and Demond Robinson remain a formidable interior duo for the Racers, providing the stiffest test yet for newcomer Mike Peake as he defines what his presence means for Taylor in the post. Wing Brion Whitley, who missed all of last season, will get his first chance against wunderkind Jordyn Adams and savvy vet Reginald Gee, while Austin Peay’s perimeter defense will look to key on Justice Hill, a talented point who has all of two starts under his belt against Division I opponents.

But, given that it’s Govs vs. Racers, a new hero could always emerge and stamp his name in the lore of one of college basketball’s great rivalries.

Last Time Against Murray State

It was in a little thing called the 2020-21 Ohio Valley Conference Tournament semifinals–five games, nine months and one pandemic ago. Taylor was Herculean in his efforts that night, with 27 points and 14 rebounds in his third-straight trip to the OVC Tournament semifinals. However, the Racer second-unit, helmed by KJ Williams at the time, made all the difference, outscoring Austin Peay’s reserves 30-11 and dominating the Govs’ second unit 23-1 on the boards as the Racers ultimately prevailed in a 73-61 decision.

Keep An Eye On…

  • A win would be Austin Peay’s first in its true road opener since 2010 at Saint Louis.
  • In three games against the Racers as a freshman, Adams averaged 20.0 points and hit 40.0 percent (8-for-20) from beyond the arc.
  • A win would be Austin Peay’s first at Murray State since 2016.
  • Two of sophomore Alec Woodard’s three starts a year ago came against the Racers.
  • A win would make the Govs 4-1 or better to open the season for the first time since 2000.
  • For his career, Taylor is averaging 19.6 points on 49.1 percent (54-for-110) shooting from the floor, including 40.0 percent (14-for-35) from beyond the arc, and 9.0 rebounds in seven games against the Racers.
  • With a victory, the Govs would move to 4-0 in league openers under head coach Matt Figger.
  • Milestone Watch—Career: Taylor needs five rebounds to become the third Governor with 1000 boards for his career, and the first player in school history—and fifth in OVC history—with 2000 points and 1000 rebounds. He also needs three offensive rebounds for 400 in his career.
  • Milestone Watch—OVC: Taylor needs nine points to pass Kenneth Faried (Morehead State, 2007-11) for 18th in league history, and 19 to take sole possession of 16th ahead of Kevin Murphy (Tennessee Tech, 2008-12) and Howie Crittenden (Murray State, 1952-56).

Govs in the time of COVID

For the 2020-21 season, Austin Peay State University athletics will allow approximately 35 percent capacity in the Dunn Center for home basketball events. There will be no lower bowl seating for fans during the season. The lower level will be limited to players, coaches, and game-day support staff only. Seats will be assigned to create a buffer between groups to ensure social distancing is maintained. Students seating will be located in sections AA-BB for both men’s and women’s games. Masks or facial coverings are required to enter the Dunn Center. They must remain in place at all times unless eating or drinking.

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