A last second missed shot from Carlos Paez in the first round of the OVC Tournament closed the book on the 2020-21 season for APSU men’s basketball and the collegiate career of Terry Taylor.
Projected as co-conference champions with Mu**ay State, the Govs had high expectations entering their season. However, the hype surrounding the program alongside persistent errors may have doomed them from the start.
APSU started the year at the Gulf Coast Showcase in Fort Meyers, Fla. and won two of its three games played. A loss in the final match against Abilene Christian may have turned heads to begin with, but the Wildcats’ 20-win season says otherwise.
Following the three-game showcase, the Governors sandwiched two sub Division I opponents — Carver Bible College (NCCAA) and McKendree (II) — in between their first meeting against the rival Racers.
The home opener went about as well as one would expect against a school in the National Christian College Athletic Association, but the game that followed the Govs’ “embarrassment” to Mu**ay revealed more underlying issues within the program on the court.
Terry Taylor finished with a strong showing against the McKendree — 31 points and eight rebounds — but the Governors clung to just a five-point advantage at the break and only won the game by 14 points.
It was there that the Govs would be out-rebounded 32-30 and turned the ball over 17 times to set a precedent for conference play.
APSU held the third-highest turnover margin in conference this season, but still coughed up the ball 14.7 times per OVC game. In addition, the Governors were next to last in the league in defensive rebounding.
A loss to Florida A&M lit a small spark in the program, as they went on to win four of their next five between a Dec. 21 rematch over the Racers and a Jan. 21 victory against Tennessee Tech. Various cancellations and postponements from both sides gave the Governors only five games on the court during the month span.
Back-to-back losses from Jacksonville State and Belmont trailed their hot streak, but a sweep at home of Tennessee State and a road game at Eastern Kentucky — which crowned Taylor as the program’s all-time leading scorer — brought three straight wins from that point.
The Govs finished the final nine games of the regular season with a 3-6 stint. All six losses were within single digits.
“We left a lot of games on the table,” head coach Matt Figger said of the season. “We left a lot of games that could’ve went either way and it never went in our direction. Whether it be a missed shot, turnover. Whatever it might be, our lack of closing out things was what kind of kept us at where we’re at right now.”
A rematch against Eastern Kentucky awaited the team in the first round and, despite another dominant final performance from Taylor, the pendulum swung in the direction of the opposition as the clock hit zero.
Taylor and Reginald Gee serve as the two seniors on this year’s squad, resulting in the potential return of three consistent starters from this season in Mike Peake, Jordyn Adams and Carlos Paez.
In his final press conference at APSU, Taylor gave solemn advice to the current and future crop of players in Clarksville regarding their handling of future hype.
“Expectations are what they are,” he said. “People expect you to do this, but some things just don’t happen that way.
“You just have to go out there and go to work and not pay attention to it, because people are going to say what they want to say. But at the end of the day, you have to go out there and work and just be you.”
The Govs will undoubtedly take a new form next season. Figger called the replacing of Taylor “impossible” and deservedly so. His uncertainty on how the team will operate offensively moving forward speaks to Taylor’s significance to the program.
“I haven’t even thought about that yet,” Figger said. “I’m trying just to succumb that I don’t get to coach Terry Taylor anymore. That will sink in at some point in time, so we’ll look at that down the road. But right now, I’m sad for a young man that has given his whole being to this university and believing in me from day one.
“I take full responsibility for the shortcomings of this team.”