For the first time since 2017, the Austin Peay State Governors have beaten the Murray State Racers.
As is usually the case with the heated rivalry, though, Thursday’s nationally televised 71-68 final score did not arrive without twists and turns along the way.
So let’s get into a brief summation of what happened down the stretch.
The Governors got their lead as high as seven in the second half after a quick 6-0 run, but the Racers quickly closed the gap, culminating in a corner three-pointer to tie the game at 66 with under two minutes remaining.
To break the knot, freshman star Jordyn Adams nailed a contested layup and a foul -- which he converted on -- giving him his final and 20th points on the night, leading all Governors. His team went up three.
Murray State answered with two points of their own and, after APSU failed to respond, they were back on the offensive. The Racers appeared to have a clear chance at getting the lead with under 30 seconds to go, but forward Eli Abaev came up with a massive block to get his team the ball back. Freshman guard Carlos Paez made two free throws.
This is where things get good.
Murray State star Tevin Brown, who had been matched up with Adams all night, went one-on-one with the Gov guard with 10 seconds left. His three-point shot drew the back of the rim before being corralled by Abaev with five seconds left. Instead of opting for a handoff to Paez next to him, he tried to seal the victory with a full-court pass to Terry Taylor only for the pass to be intercepted by Murray State’s DaQuan Smith who got one last shot up… and just missed the Racers’ second chance at sending the game to overtime.
And just like that, the Governors won the ballgame.
Despite the craziness, Taylor was able to keep a level head.
“I was calm,” Taylor said. “I’ve been through it before. My job is (to be) a leader. I’m not really worried about scoring the bucket, I’ve got to keep the younger guys and other guys who haven’t been in a situation like this with Murray or any big team, I’ve got to keep them level headed and say ‘next play, we’ve got to get stops and execute.’ That’s all that matters in the end.”
Taylor’s contributions extended beyond his leadership in the huddle. The seven-time reigning OVC Player of the Week corralled 16 points and 14 rebounds on his way to yet another double-double. 12 of his points came in the second half.
“It’s a sweet feeling considering my first two years, we’ve been in close games with (MSU) but we never got over the hump,” Taylor said. “This year, it just feels so great.”
Austin Peay came out with the win despite shooting just 3-for-18 from three. They made up for the lack of production from deep with an abundance of success from the charity stripe, making 20-of-24 attempts – their second best effort of the conference season.
“We’ve been working on a lot of free throws in practice,” Adams, who went 8-for-9 from the line, said. “(Coaches) always tell us to make them call a foul, so we’ve got to go hard to the rim, draw fouls and get easy free throws.”
The win could not have come at a better time for the Governors. After starting OVC play 10-0, they lost their previous two games – both on the road – to Tennessee State and Belmont, whom they had beaten at home a few weeks prior. The defeats dropped them into second place in the conference. Another loss would have tied them for third with Belmont and Eastern Kentucky with three losses apiece.
The team above them was the one-loss Racers themselves. After Thursday, the rivals share the top spot.
“It’s huge,” said APSU coach Matt Figger.” It was a huge win for us because we needed to prove that we belong with Belmont and Murray and some of those teams. I tell my guys all the time, to quote one of my favorite people in life Ric Flair, ‘to be the man you’ve got to beat the man’ and Murray’s the man. It’s a big step for our program.”
The season continues on Saturday with yet another test with the aforementioned Eastern Kentucky Colonels (10-3 OVC). Tip-off is scheduled for 30 minutes after the conclusion of the preceding women’s contest.
Austin Peay (71): Jordyn Adams 20, Terry Taylor 16, Evan Hinson 12, Eli Abaev 8, Carlos Paez 8, Antwuan Butler 5, Matheus Silveira 2.
Murray State (68): Jaiveon Eaves 21, DaQuan Smith 13, Tevin Brown 13, KJ Williams 11, Anthony Smith 10.