Saturday night’s contest between APSU and Jacksonville State featured 16 lead changes and over 50% shooting from both teams, but the Governors’ lack of interior defense led to the Gamecocks coming away with the 76-70 victory in Clarksville, Tenn.
From the start, it looked like the game would be a back-and-forth battle between two of the OVC’s best rebounding teams — APSU on the offensive glass at 13.4 per game, and JSU on the defensive side with 28.6 a game — and it certainly was just that.
The first 13 scores between the teams either tied the game or resulted in a lead change. This trend remained for the better part of the evening.
At the half, the scoring trio of Terry Taylor (11), Mike Peake (10) and Jordyn Adams (7) accounted for 28 of APSU’s 32 points and shot a collective 60% from the field.
The Governors had no answer for Gamecocks’ 6’10” big Brandon Huffman. After 20 minutes, Huffman had 10 points and would be a vital part in his team’s second-half performance.
The Govs allowed JSU to connect on nearly 55% of their shots from the field in the first half, but the numbers only grew for the paint-heavy Gamecocks in the second.
Behind the consistent deep-range ability of Darian Adams and Huffman’s dominant post presence, Jacksonville State shot 70% from the field and outscored the Governors 28-12 in the paint throughout the second half.
APSU held a 70-67 advantage over JSU with under three minutes remaining, but the Gamecocks ended the game on a 9-0 run to come away with the six-point victory.
Defensively, the Governors were outmatched. Huffman was guarded by Terry Taylor for the majority of the game. While Taylor has a strong defensive presence in the paint, Huffman’s five inch and nearly 30 pound advantage over the senior was too much for the reigning OVC Player of the Year to overcome.
Overall, APSU looked stagnant on defense against a much larger JSU squad. Governors’ head coach Matt Figger says he needs to see two things from his guys in order for his program to succeed going forward.
“Pride and taking the initiative to want to get stops,” Figger said. “That is all it boils down to. Defense comes down to how much pride you have and how much determination you have to get the stop, that’s all it comes down to. Instead of fouling a kid, we’d rather get out of the way. We have got to do something that resembles a bit of defense.”
In the Governors’ last win over Tennessee Tech, they were able to rely on Taylor to put the game away, which has been the case multiple times over the past four years. Against JSU, however, Taylor was virtually neutralized in the second half, attempting only three shots.
“They’re starting to shrink [the floor] and put five guys in the paint and daring us to make open threes, bottom line,” Figger said. “When you have two guys [Jordyn Adams and Alec Woodard] that go 1-13 from the three-point line, I’d put five guys in the paint.”
Figger and the Governors will look to regroup defensively before they host the 10-0 and OVC-leading Belmont Bruins next Thursday. The last time the Bruins traveled to Clarksville, APSU came away with an 86-78 victory.