With Evansville, Ind. awaiting, the race for the APSU men’s basketball team to capture its sixth Ohio Valley Conference Tournament Championship in program history is underway.
As the Govs enter the tournament as an unexpected underdog, here is what you need to know ahead of their first game on March 4.
After being tabbed as the co-favorites in the OVC’s preseason poll, the Governors find themselves making the trip to the conference tournament as the sixth seed—the lowest they’ve been in head coach Matt Figger’s tenure.
Figger was tasked with operating a 14-man roster turnaround after losing six players from last year’s squad and welcoming eight newcomers. Even through such, the Govs’ philosophy has largely stayed consistent throughout the years: space the floor and get Terry Taylor good looks down low.
After leading the conference in points and rebounds a season ago, the three-time All-OVC selection has not slowed down one bit.
Taylor not only leads the conference in points and rebounds, but has one of the most impressive stat lines in the country. And yet, the Governors were only able to muster a 10-10 conference record on the season.
After coming off a conference freshman of the year freshman campaign that saw Jordyn Adams average 17.4 points per game, injuries have sidelined him throughout the season and heavily limited his production on the court.
Adams has started in 16 games and has been held to under 10 points in nine contests throughout the season. In comparison, the Silsbee, Texas native was only held to single digits four times in last season’s 33-game slate.
While Adams has not been APSU’s secondary scorer as of late, the team has seen Mike Peake, a transfer from the University of Georgia, step into an increased scoring role throughout the season.
In the Govs’ last four games of the regular season, Peake put up a pair of 20-point outings, including a career-high 25-point, 12-rebound game against Tennessee Tech on Feb. 25.
Surrounding the program’s front court has been the trio of Reginald Gee, Tai’Reon Joseph and Carlos Paez. Outside of Taylor and Adams, Paez is the only returning player to have started in over 12 games a season ago.
The Governors are heading to Evansville also lacking momentum. Having dropped their final three games of the regular season, APSU is on its longest conference-losing streak in over four years.
While 92 days separate their first and most recent loss, all 12 of the program’s losses sustained throughout the regular season stem from one number: 72
When APSU holds their opponent to under 72 points, they are a perfect 13-0. However, when the other team scores over 72, APSU is a rather demeaning 1-12.
While the OVC Tournament is a new season altogether, Figger’s squad will look continue to create opportunities for one of the nation’s most dynamic scorers, rely the production from other starters and role players and hold opponents to less than the 72-point threshold that has haunted them since late November.
Here are some of the team’s season high and lowlights, followed by a glance at what lies ahead for the team in the Ford Center.
While Terry Taylor’s resume was already as impressive coming into the season, he added a slew of new accomplishments throughout his senior campaign.
In addition to a Jan. 9 buzzer-beating shot to win against Eastern Illinois, Taylor has continued a steady climb in the APSU and OVC record books. On Feb. 4, Taylor conducted a routine put back dunk against EKU, but when he hit the floor it was as APSU’s all-time leading scorer, surpassing Bubba Wells’ record of 2,267 points.
He was also named as the OVC player of the week four times during the season, increasing his career total to a record-breaking 17.
While there has not been a consistent number two scorer for APSU, distribution in the scoring column has increased throughout the season.
15 of the team’s last 16 games featured at least two players scoring in double figures while eight of their last 13 featured four players reaching the 10-point mark.
10 conference losses are the most APSU has sustained in a season since the 2015 season saw the team go 3-13 in OVC competition.
Their 1-12 record when allowing 72 or more points is coupled by the Governors’ struggle to hold teams late in ball games, leading to numerous losses on the season.
When the Govs are outscored in the second half of games, they are just 3-8. In comparison, they are 9-4 when they outscore their opponent over the last 20 minutes and 2-0 when the teams score the same.
After combining for a 24-2 home record over the last two seasons, APSU dropped five of thirteen games in the Dunn Center this year.
Scouting the field:
In December, the OVC announced that if a full conference schedule was not completed that the men’s tournament would be adjusted to a traditional format (No. 1 vs No. 8, etc.). With this being the case, the tournament will follow the same format as the women.
“It’s a different setup than years past,” Figger said. “I think this could be the wildest [and] fun-est OVC Tournament you may have witnessed in years.”
As the sixth seed, APSU will face off against Eastern Kentucky at 9:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 4.
APSU matched up against the Colonels twice in the regular season, with both road teams stealing a win against the shorthanded host.
“They’ve got a really good team,” Figger said of the first-round matchup. “We will have our hands full. They play a unique style, and so, if I was sitting there as a three seed and I had to play Eastern Kentucky as a six seed, I wouldn’t be happy at all, but you have got to play the games and every game is going to be a competitive game. That’s why it’s March Madness.”
Throughout the season, APSU has failed to find consistency against OVC competition. With its largest winning streak being only three games, the Governors have split their season series with a number of the teams in the conference.
APSU split their series with Eastern Kentucky, Eastern Illinois, Mu**ay State, Southeast Missouri, Tennessee Tech and UT Martin.
While they were only able to sweep TSU, APSU was swept by a trio of teams—all of which making the trek up to Indiana.
After only playing each a single time, the Governors fell to Belmont in Clarksville 81-76, followed by a 75-74 overtime loss in Morehead, Ky. to the Eagles
APSU additionally lost to the Gamecocks of Jacksonville State twice, falling 76-70 in Clarksville Tenn. and 75-67 in Jacksonville, Ala.
Should the Governors pull off the upset, they would play the winner of the Morehead State/Southeast Missouri on Friday at 9:30 p.m. on ESPNU.
The OVC championship is set to take place on Saturday, March 6 at 7 p.m. on ESPN2.