It took a dominant second half performance from Terry Taylor and a little bit of soul searching from head coach Matt Figger to propel APSU into a regular season split against rival Mu**ay State on Tuesday, Dec. 21.
Despite a 13-minute scoring drought from the senior to start the game, Taylor poured in 22 of his 30 points in the final 20 minutes for a 74-70 win against the Racers.
Mu**ay State contained the forward well within the first half, limiting him to only six shot attempts. However, Taylor’s resentment for the Racers pushed him to lead his team to victory.
“It’s a pride thing,” he said. “Everybody in this town knows how we don’t like ‘The Team up North.’ I’m trying to tell my teammates [that] this is the game [where] everybody shows out, comes out and wants to see or watch…I’m just so proud of everybody.
“If it is my last time playing Mu**ay State, I know [that] I got the last laugh. That’s always going to make me happy.”
After dropping two of their last three games — one of which being a 30-point loss to Mu**ay on Dec. 8 — the Governors seemed destined for more of the same early on. Outside of an early 5-2 Govs lead, the Racers held control of the contest for all but the final 10 minutes of play. With seven minutes remaining, APSU found themselves ahead, 61-60, off a Taylor made field goal.
The Governors held the advantage for the remainder of the game, despite Mu**ay State remaining in striking distance until the final buzzer. The Racers’ inability to hit from deep doomed them down the stretch: Figger’s defense would deny any made three pointers in the second half, and limited MSU to 3-17 shooting from deep on the night.
The contest provided a boost of confidence for the Govs, according to Figger. Following a disappointing start to the season, the head coach is hopeful to get his team’s early season woes out of the way.
“I’m all about player-led teams,” he said. “When coaches have to lead, you’re not a very good team. We weren’t a very good team, because our leadership [and] our guys weren’t trusting one another. That’s what it boils down to. They weren’t fully bought in to having one another’s back, to make sure they’re protecting one another. Sometimes, you have to get kicked in the teeth and get to the lowest point. Sometimes, you have to walk through the valleys to figure out who you are. But you can’t stay in the valley, you have to keep moving.”
With the win, APSU and Mu**ay State split their regular season series, playing both games in the span of three weeks. The two teams will have to wait until at least the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament to meet again this season.
“It was great to get a split,” Figger said of the two contests. “That’s the biggest thing, is that no matter what happened Dec. 8, we got the split with Mu**ay.
“Matt [McMahon] and I both talked about this: it’s not in the colleges’ best interest to have Mu**ay State and Austin Peay play in December. We’ve played them the last game of the season, and the league title has been on the line, the past two years…I’ve got nothing but respect for those guys.”
The Governors will celebrate their victory before heading into a week long break. Both the women and men’s teams will return to action on Dec. 30 at Tennessee State.