I was worried coming into tonight that this wouldn’t have the feel that we’re used to seeing, and saw in Clarksville, of a classic Murray State – Governors rivalry game. The Racers were coming off their first loss of the season, and this Austin Peay team just isn’t the team we’re used to seeing under Dave Loos, coming off a 39 point loss to Belmont.
And in a way we didn’t. Both teams got off to terrible starts, and then the Racers ran away with what may have been the least competitive game between these two teams in the past 15 years.
But there was plenty of fire between the two schools, including a play resulting in 3 technical fouls with 19 seconds left in the first half. But Austin Peay simply couldn’t match the Racers intensity, falling to 6-7 in the OVC with a 82 to 63 loss to their rivals.
Isaiah Canaan continues his OVC player of the year campaign for the Racers, scoring 23 points and dishing out 6 assists, but unlike just 2 nights ago, got significant contributions from guards Jewuan Long and Stacy Wilson. The Racers dominated the boards, led by 9 from Latreze Mushatt, and turned the Governors over 18 times. (Although, in fairness, the Governors turned themselves over many of those times)
John Fraley had a solid night for Austin Peay, and Alton Williams, who has played in just 7 games this season, hit some big 3’s off the bench in the 2nd half, keeping this game (relatively) close. But it’s hard to find many positives when you allow a team to shoot almost 52% from the field, lose the rebounding battle by 13 and turn the ball over like the Governors did.
Are the Racers “back”?: This is by far the biggest question out of tonight’s game, and not one with an easy answer. I think they had a good bounce back game, but I’m still not sold this team is playing as well as they were earlier in the season. But it’s only been 48 hours since the Tennessee State loss, so that shouldn’t really surprise us. We’ll know a lot more on this topic some Wednesday, when the Racers travel to a hostile Show Me Center to face SEMO.
It still feels like Canaan is carrying the team, and while he is, and should be, a solid contributor game in and game out, when the Racers are at their best is when you feel like anyone, not just Canaan, can beat you. Right now, you don’t just get that feeling. Poole is struggling, teams seem to be effectively double-teaming Aska, hurting his production, and Daniel is struggling to finish at the rim. If Canaan has an off night, or if somebody finds a way to contain him (which is much less likely) can the Racers find a way to win? A month ago, I’d say yes. Right now, I’m not sure. The Racers are hoping they don’t have to face that scenario, and Canaan has been such a special player that it’s unlikely they do have to face that.
Serious question: Mushatt or Aska?: Here’s a question I never thought I’d be discussing until recently, and I am completely serious when I ask this: Should Mushatt still be in the starting lineup? In the past two games, Mushatt has pulled down 9 and 8 rebounds, respectively, playing just 18 minutes in both contests, while scoring at least 8 points in both. Not that Aska’s been bad, putting up about the same number of points, but fewer rebounds, while also drawing double-teams every time he’s touched the ball in the past 2 games. When he’s been doubled, he’s struggled passing out of the trap, turning the ball over 3 times tonight. Aska has a tremendous upside, and is capable of having great games, but he’s seemed to struggle since returning from injury, over which time Mushatt has gotten tremendously better. Aska is probably better defensively, and for that reason alone, will (and probably should) remain in the starting lineup. But it has to be good knowing there’s no dropoff when you need to bring in Mushatt off the win.
Eastern Illinois won today: Why mention that? They’re now just 2 wins behind Austin Peay, who has now lost 4 straight games, and 5 of their last 6. Austin Peay isn’t an OVC Tournament lock, and have games against Morehead, UT Martin, and SEMO left in OVC play. If they win 2 out of 3, they’re a lock. Does this team have 2 more wins in them. Do they have one? Losing to Belmont and Murray State in the same week isn’t good, but it’s not horrible either; they are both really good team. But losing big, twice, and being completely uncompetitive in the process? That’s a problem.
So is when the word “quit” is being thrown around. They didn’t appear to quit tonight; they were just outclassed. Which leads me to…
Everybody plays for the Governors: When you’re struggling to score, you can usually go one of two ways: You can make your starters play longer, and trust them, or throw the kitchen sink at it. Loos took the second option tonight. 10 players played 10+ minutes for Austin Peay. I didn’t even realize this was possible. 3 Starters don’t even play 20 minutes in the loss. (Melvin Baker, Jerome Clyburn, and Edmondson, who might soon find his way coming off the bench again)
Donte Poole’s struggles continue: Could this not be related to the “pressure” of being undefeated. Poole looks uncomfortable with the ball, and is trying to force plays that aren’t there. Tonight, 2-7 from the field, and just 1-4 from behind the arc. He’s been a great role player for the Racers, but has struggled over the past 2 weeks or so. The Racers need to look to get him involved early in games, and get him good looks. Between turnovers, and Canaan, Poole only got 2 shots in the first 8 minutes of the game, and only one was a really good look. Think of it like a quarterback (although that’s not at all synonymous with the role he plays on the team, but just go with it…) get a few shots to fall, that confidence will rise in a hurry. Of course, if you get him open looks, and he still misses…well…can’t do a whole lot about that.
Tyshwan who?: Edmondson wasn’t only a player of the year candidate coming into the season, he was many people’s pick to win it. For the 2nd straight game, Edmondson doesn’t score a single point, and now has more single digit scoring games than double digit ones. The Governors will need him to make shots down the stretch if they have any chance of making a post season run.
On Technicals…: Just one note here: When both coaches agree that the refs blew it out of proportion, and both believe one shouldn’t have been called on Prohm, I’ll side with the coaches. Every team isn’t Cincinnati and Xavier. Don’t treat them as such.
Ending On Good Notes: I think this is how I’m going to end all my recaps.
- Steve Prohm looked about as relaxed in the post game news conference as I’ve seen him this year. Big wins will do that, but I suspect that’s not the only reason. On the other side, Loos didn’t seem dejected after this loss. The season isn’t over yet, and he seems to realize that.
- Both teams got great production from their bench. 31 points for Austin Peay, 24 for the Racers.
- I said it towards the beginning, but what a shooting performance from Alton Williams. Before the game against Belmont, Williams had 2 points all season. 8 points against Belmont, 15 tonight, on 5-5 shooting behind the arc. Great to see a player getting a chance, and making the most of it.
- After lying on the floor during the 2nd half, I wasn’t sure if we’d see Aska again in the regular season. He was back in before the end of the game. Glad it wasn’t anything serious.