Matt Figger and the APSU Governors’ gameplan to beating Mu**ay State in their first matchup this season is quite simple.
“Score one more point than they have at the end of the game.”
The Governors are set to face off against their archrival in what has the potential to be the series’ biggest game. Here’s why:
On Tuesday, Dec. 8, the Govs will travel up to Mu**ay, Ky. to take on the Racers in the First Financial Bank Battle of the Border. In the Ohio Valley Conference’s preseason poll, the Governors and Racers were each selected as co-favorites for the 2020-21 season. The teams also had two players named to the Preseason All-OVC Team–Terry Taylor and Jordyn Adams were selected for APSU, while Tevin Brown and KJ Williams were nominated for MSU.
Last year, APSU and Mu**ay met three times during the season for the first time since 2009. Each came away with a win on their home court, but the Racers got the one that counted most, a 73-61 victory in the semifinals of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament.
Going up against a team like Mu**ay is never an easy task, especially for Figger’s program.
During the coach’s first two seasons calling the shots for APSU, Mu**ay was virtually an unstoppable force. Led by the second overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft and the reigning NBA Rookie of the Year Ja Morant, the Racers made a run in the 2017’s March Madness after winning the OVC Tournament title. Since Morant’s departure from the college ranks, Figger has still struggled to get past APSU’s most hated rival.
Tuesday will be the fourth time that Figger’s Governors will travel to the CFSB Center. In his four years at APSU, the coach has yet to steal a win on the road against the Racers, and holds an overall record of 1-6.
This year’s group is unlike any other of the other seven that Figger has put on the court, however. While the team is highlighted by their two Preseason All-OVC sections, they have also added depth, most notably in Mike Peake and Corbin Merritt, who each transferred from Power-five programs.
The only four players taking the court this year against Matt McMahon’s Racers that did so when the teams last met are Terry Taylor, Jordyn Adams, Alec Woodard and Carlos Paez. Reginald Gee was on last year’s roster, though he did not participate in any of the contests due to an ACL injury that sidelined him prior to conference play.
Taylor is the only player on the roster who has faced off against MSU outside of the 2019-20 season. While he shares his coach’s record against them, none of the losses are due to him having an off night.
The 2019 OVC Player of the Year averages just under 20 points and nine rebounds per game against the team that kept him from his first career OVC Championship a season ago. During their last meeting, Taylor put on a show in Evansville against the Racers, scoring 27 points and grabbing 14 boards in all but one minute played. Now a senior, Taylor looks to lead the program to their first win in Mu**ay since 2016.
While Figger has a new-look team this season, McMahon’s squad is very similar to the bunch that won the OVC’s regular season title. Headlined by Brown and Williams, MSU returns nine of the team’s 14 players from a season ago.
The Racers are 2-1 on the season. They defeated Greenville in their season opener and, after a loss at the hands of MTSU, fended off an Illinois State team at home Saturday evening.
While many coaches use the first few games of the season to try numerous starting rotations, McMahon has stuck with the same starting five in each contest.
The backcourt features Justice Hill, a newcomer to the team who was a standout at Salt Lake Community College in Salt Lake City, Utah in 2019. The six-foot guard runs the point and currently averages 8.7 points and six assists, which is tied for first on the team.
Joining Hill, Brion Whitley plays the other guard position for the Racers. While his 3.7 points and 2.7 rebounds a game may not jump off the box score, he provides veteran leadership to the team as a fourth-year player.
The forward positions are held down by Tevin Brown and Demond Robinson. Brown, an All-OVC selection last year, is one of the most dynamic scorers in all of college basketball. His 42% from beyond the arc last season ranked 20th in the nation. He is currently averaging 15 points, six assists and eight rebounds a game.
As a 6-8 255lb forward, Robinson is a defensive anchor for his lineup at the four. Robinson is more of a back-to-the-basket type of big, who limits himself to playing good defense and taking easy shots when given the opportunity. He currently averages 10.7 points a game, but most notably is hitting at 89% from the field thus far.
To round out MSU’s starting five is the program’s other Preseason All-OVC selection, KJ Williams. Williams, at 6-10 and 245, is an old-fashioned center. He earns his scholarship very much like Robinson, by playing both ends of the paint and grabbing missed shots. He is the team’s second leading scorer with 14.7 a game, and is an efficient 62% from the field. He has hauled in 20 rebounds during Mu**ay’s first three games of the season.
When the Governors defeated the Racers at the Dunn a season ago, they did not do so behind a Terry Taylor 30-point performance. Taylor put up 16 against the Racers at home last season, but the soon to be OVC Freshman of the year Jordyn Adams led the team with 20 points. Four players outside of Taylor and Adams put up eight points or more, only the second time Figger’s team had done such a thing against Mu**ay.
Outside of a balanced performance, the recipe for a Governors win is quite simple: limit Tevin Brown. APSU held Brown to 13 points on 4-11 from the field in their 71-68 win last year. Limiting one of the nation’s best shooters may be easier said than done, but if the Govs want to collect their fourth win of the season in Mu**ay. it is something the team will need to do.
Austin Peay vs Mu**ay State. The Governors vs the Racers. Red and black against blue and gold. “Let’s go Peay” vs “Flush the Peay.” The OVC’s biggest rivalry is on deck. Tip-off is set for 7:30pm in Mu**ay, Ky.