Thursday’s win for the Austin Peay State women’s basketball team was a necessary one for a pair of reasons.
First, it broke a tie for eighth place – and the final conference tournament spot – in the OVC.
Second, it was over archrival Murray State, and everybody loves beating a rival.
The 69-61 Governor victory did not come easy. After trailing by six at halftime and by as many as 11 in the third quarter with the offense once again struggling to convert on open looks, APSU could have given up early and conceded. Instead, in the midst of a 3-for-20 third quarter shooting performance, they locked down defensively and managed a 7-0 run to close the period, keeping the Racers off the board for over five minutes and getting back within three points.
Then, in the fourth, the jets came on and things finally began to happen for APSU. After shooting just 13-for-52 in the first three quarters, the Govs came out and shot 53.33 percent in the final 10 minutes, making three triples and going 7-for-8 at the line to erupt for a 26-point period and defeat their rivals comfortably.
“Every game is the most important game you play, the next game, but when you look at the standings, we need to make a late season push,” said APSU coach David Midlick. “No doubt about that. To be down double figures, to turn up the defense, shots weren’t falling in the third period, to play the same way and have the mental toughness and some grit about us, it’s fun to watch. It’s fun to coach.”
Brandi Ferby led the offense with a career-high 20 points and Arielle Gonzalez-Varner turned things on in the second half to finish with 18.
Austin Peay committed a season-low six turnovers – down from their previous low of 11. It resulted in zero Murray State points off turnovers. Meanwhile, the Governor defense consistently forced Racer turnovers, causing their rivals to cough up 15, resulting in 18 points the other way.
“We got in passing lanes,” Midlick said. “I thought our half court, for one of the few times this year, was a good as our (press). We worked hard on another team. I thought we made them take a little more difficult shots because they are a very talented basketball team.”
After having such offensive difficulty, seeing APSU keep the game close before figuring things out in the final 10 minutes could end up being exactly the confidence boost the Govs need to finish the season strong.
“In the third quarter, we had some (frustration) going on,” Ferby said. “We just have to keep going, keep shooting the ball and keep playing great defense. Murray is our rival, so we really wanted this win. We’ve got to keep winning to get into the tournament, so it means everything to us.”
With the victory, the Governors are tied with Morehead State at 5-8 for seventh place in the OVC.