APSU men’s basketball will defend their 4-0 Ohio Valley Conference record on the line when they take the 274-mile trip to Edwardsville, Illinois, to clash with the Cougars of Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville.
The Govs hold a six-game win streak over SIUE (5-11, 1-3 OVC) while winning of the seven of the last eight matchups. On the road, the Govs have won their last three games at the Vadalabene Center.
“[Edwardsville] is a team that gets up and down the floor, and they will go quickly in the clock,” Head Coach Matt Figger said. “They will have a lot of continuous ball screens and a lot of pick and roll stuff. We have to be able to defend that stuff.”
The Govs weekend will include their 13th and 14th game away from home this season. That is nine more games then the squad has played at the Dunn Center.
“I think it will have a positive effect. Out of 18 games, we have 13 of them played away from the Dunn Center,” Figger said. “Our kids are pretty prepared for life on the road. Early on it was a learning experience.”
APSU’s last matchup with the Cougars featured a 23-point performance from Chris Porter-Bunton while four other Govs (Zach Glotta, Averyl Ugba, Dayton Gumm and Terry Taylor) finished in double figures. Four of those five athletes will be taking the floor on Thursday night.
“We just cannot come in lackadaisical, we have to take them like we are playing Mu**ay or any other team,” Porter-Bunton said. “We cannot look at records and the past”.
The contest between these two is historically a physical one. The previous meeting saw a total 76 points in the paint and a rebound battle won by the hosts 31-25.
“We have to be able to get on the glass and handle their ball screens. That is the biggest key,” Figger said. “We have to keep from getting downhill, and we have to be able to run an efficient offense.”
Voice of Head Coach Matt Figger
In the 2017-18 season, the Cougars failed to qualify for the OVC tournament after finishing second to last in conference standings with a 5-13 OVC record and a 9-21 overall mark. APSU played on the other end of the spectrum, finishing third in the conference at 12-6 and advancing to the OVC semifinals.
Both of these teams prefer to play on their home court. The Cougars 4-3 record is the only thing keeping them afloat when compared to their abysmal 0-7 road record in 2018-19. On the other hand, the Govs are a respectable 4-4 when playing away from the Dunn Center, a venue that houses a 5-0 record of APSU in 2018-19.
At this point of the season, the two OVC squads hold one common opponent, the Southeast Missouri State Redhawks. The Govs visited the ShowMe Center on Thursday, Jan. 10, and thrashed the Redhawks with a 78-60 victory.
The Cougars found themselves in a more drawn out bout with Southeast Missouri but prevailed at home 94-88. Freshman guard Cameron Williams led SIUE with 27 points in the victory. David McFarland also hit the 20 plus mark with 22 points in the night. Tyresse Williford provided the squad with six of the 19 assists while two other Cougars, Brandon Jackson and Christian Ellis finished in double digits.
“They have shown that they are capable of beating teams, and we just cannot come in not ready to play,” Porter-Bunton said.
McFarland leads the squad with 252 points and averages 14.4 points per game, a team-high for SIUE.
“We played them last year, and [McFarland] hurt us from the 3-point line, he is also a great athlete and he can drive to the whole,” Taylor said. “Coach is going to put a game plane together and we are going to lock down guarding them.”
The Cougars enter their contest with the Govs on a three-game skid that includes a pair of overtime losses to Eastern Illinois and Tennessee Tech as well as a blowout defeat to Jacksonville State (12-5, 4-0 OVC).