The Govs’ season came to a close Wednesday, March 21, after an 83-81 loss to the UIC Flames in the CIT quarterfinals.
One season removed from an 11-19 finish, the Govs had plenty of questions to be answered. The biggest question that needed answering was how would the program fair without Dave Loos, who retired after 27 seasons as head coach.
Enter Matt Figger, the former associate head coach and recruiting director for the South Carolina Gamecocks during their run to the Final Four of the 2016-17 NCAA Tournament.
On top of handing the reigns over to a new coach, the Govs faced the issue of being the fifth most inexperienced team in the country based off of games played. A team with five freshmen, two of which saw 25 plus minutes of action per game, proved to be a formidable opponent slated against a tough schedule.
After being picked to finish 11th in the Ohio Valley Conference, the Govs wrapped up their season in third place, with a 19-15 (12-6 OVC) record.
The Govs began the season on a two-game road trip, falling to Vanderbilt and the top team in the country, Virginia. After the tough road start, the Govs won three out of their next four, beginning the season 6-7 out of conference.
Moving toward the end of December, APSU opened conference play blazing hot, going 7-3 in their first 10 outings. During conference play, APSU swept five of the seven teams they played twice, including the defending conference champions Jacksonville State.
Finishing 12-6, the Govs traveled to the Ford Center as the third seed in the OVC. They defeated Eastern Illinois March 1, but fell the next night in the semifinals to the Belmont Bruins.
The Govs returned home to the Dunn Center two weeks later to host the first round of the CIT against the University of Louisiana Monroe. The team witnessed victory at home, moving on to the quarterfinal against the University of Illinois Chicago, falling in heartbreaking fashion 83-81, concluding their post season.
The team saw 19 wins for the first time since the 2010 season, where they also finished 19-15.
APSU not only defied the limitations the preseason polls placed on them, but shattered them on the way to their best season in nearly a decade.
The Govs were lead in scoring by senior Averyl Ugba who averaged nearly 16 points and eight rebounds per contest.
Freshmen were another key ingredient in the successful season, as freshmen Terry Taylor and Dayton Gumm averaged 15 points, eight rebounds and 10 points, 3 rebounds per game respectively.
Looking ahead to next season, the Govs should be favored higher than 11th in the OVC, as they will only lose seniors Tre’ Ivory, Ugba, and graduate student Ed Stephens.
It is hard to not view Figger’s first season as head coach as a success. This will be a team to watch as they grow older and more experienced.