The Governors have struggled late in games throughout the season, and Saturday’s contest against a hungry Eastern Illinois team proved to be no different.
However, the biggest news of the day came long after fans had left the Winfield Dunn Center.
While APSU was able to get out to a nine-point lead midway through the first half, the Panthers were able to cut the deficit to three going into the half.
Behind Terry Taylor’s 14 points and half a dozen rebounds, the Govs had a 33-30 lead going into the locker room.
On their subsequent possession of the second half, EIU’s Marvin Johnson cut the advantage to a single point. Just under two minutes later, the Panthers tied the game at 39.
After storming back to tie it, EIU continued to gain momentum throughout the second half.
Anytime that APSU was able to take a lead, the Panthers answered right back with a score of their own. They tied the game on five different occasions in the second half’s first seven and a half minutes.
A layup from EIU’s Sammy Friday IV with 12:38 remaining gave the Panthers a lead that they would never look back from.
The Governors were able to tie the game three more times on the night; however, they were unable to take the lead and fell 76-69 at the final buzzer.
APSU was outscored 46-36 in the final 20 minutes, allowing EIU to hit from over 60% from the field and beyond the arc. The second-half struggles have been an ongoing theme throughout the season and have led to a number of losses.
Following the game, APSU head coach Matt Figger said his team’s losses can be simplified into two simple terms.
“Maturity and consistency,” Figger said. “We have lost every game in the same way: an inability to keep the ball out of the paint, an inability to get one-[and]-dones on shots. Just an inability to be consistent defensively.
“We have lost 10 games when we have given up 71 or more points…We are undefeated when we hold teams to under that number, got 10 losses when we don’t.”
In addition to game at hand, Saturday’s contest also featured the team’s senior night. Two players, Terry Taylor and Reginald Gee, were honored prior to tip-off with framed jerseys and a video message from family members.
“I think of those guys of being the epitome of student-athletes, guys that have excelled both in the classroom and on the court; that’s first and foremost,” Figger said of his two seniors. “Good human beings. They are going to be guys that are going to be successful in life, because of who they are and how they have been raised.”
Gee joined APSU two years ago after transferring and graduating from Alabama State. After having his first season in Clarksville cut short due to injury, Gee has stepped into a strong rotational role this season. The guard averages the third most points per game on the team in his 19 appearances and nine starts.
Taylor has had one of the most memorable careers of any student-athlete at APSU and is currently the all-time points leader after passing Bubba Wells on Feb. 4 against Eastern Kentucky.
On Oct. 14, the NCAA granted an extra year of eligibility to all men’s and women’s basketball players in light of the pandemic. When asked if Saturday’s game against EIU would be the final time Governor fans would see Taylor take court in the Dunn Center, the Bowling Green, Ky. native said the following:
“You want my honest answer? Yeah, this was my final home game,” Taylor said. “I just think that I have done what I needed to do here, despite whatever has happened in the past. I think I am ready for a new adventure and to try my hand at a pro career. If that doesn’t work, then I will try something in social work, since that is my major. I think it is time for me to let someone else come in and try to break some of my records and try to help Austin Peay win an OVC Championship.”
With a pair of games remaining before the postseason rolls around, Figger, Taylor and the Govs look to finish the regular season strong by picking up wins at Tennessee Tech and Jacksonville State on the 25th and 27th of February, respectively.