OVC Ball Statbox
|(8) Austin Peay||27||47||74|
|16-17 (7-9 OVC)|
|(4) Tennessee State||38||34||72|
|20-10 (11-5 OVC)|
|23/47 (48.9%)||Field Goals||26/61 (42.6%)|
|7/16 (43.8%)||3-Point FG||2/14 (14.3%)|
|21/38 (55.3%)||Free Throws||16/24 (66.7%)|
|40 (9/31)||Rebounds (O/D)||37 (10/27)|
|10||2nd Chance Pts||13|
|13||Points off TO||18|
|24||Pts in the Paint||40|
Tempo Tracker (Possessions)
(8) Austin Peay offense
(4) Tennessee State offense
What happened: Chaos, meet the Ohio Valley Conference men’s tournament.
For the first 30 minutes, it looked like Tennessee State was going to cruise into the semifinals. The Tigers virtually shut down Chris Horton, holding the all-OVC first teamer to just three first half points on 1-4 shooting. TSU used a 17-2 run to end the first half to pull out to a 11-point advantage, and then an 8-0 run to led by 19 with 17:44 remaining.
With 7:26 remaining, a TSU victory seemed almost inevitable. Xavier Richards just nailed a dunk that put the Tigers up 62-46, the Governors offense had been ineffective all night, and seemed powerless to derail a potential Belmont-Tennessee State matchup.
Then, everything changed, in a hurry.
First, it was a pair of John Murry free-throws. Next possession, a Horton dunk. Another defensive stop was followed by a Josh Robinson jumper.
TSU head coach Dana Ford sensed the momentum was shifting. He called timeout.
It didn’t matter.
Another miss. More free-throws from Murry. TSU subs guys in, but another empty offensive possession. Kenny Jones hits a layup. Just two minutes, 16 seconds of game time have passed and Tennessee State’s lead is down to six.
TSU is left clinging to a one-point lead in as we pass the two-minute mark.
We haven’t even gotten to the chaotic part yet.
With 1:44 to go — Tahjere McCall gets to the free-throw line for the Tigers. After making the first, he misses the second, but in an attempt to get the rebound, Jones tips the ball into TSU’s basket, putting the Tigers back up by two possessions.
On Austin Peay’s next trip down the floor, Murry gets fouled again, but misses two free-throws. Robinson had just missed two-free throws just a few possessions prior. After the impressive comeback it looked like the Governors might give away the game after all.
But then, there were threes.
Jared Savage hits the first three to pull Austin Peay within one with 58 seconds to play. The Governors get another stop, getting the ball back with 40 seconds to play. After a timeout, Murry hits from deep. The 19-point lead was officially erased, with just 24 seconds remaining.
…and we still weren’t done. Not even close.
TSU has the ball and can hold for the final possession, but Tahjere McCall loses his place on the floor against Austin Peay’s pressure, and steps on the end line to turn it back over. Robinson would draw the intentional foul, and hit one of two at the line, keeping the game within one possession.
With 17 seconds remaining, Tennessee State makes the smart play: Keron Deshields goes coast-to-coast in just seven seconds and makes an easy layup.
Another foul. Josh Robinson this time makes both his free-throws. We’re back to a three-point game, but there are just seven seconds on the clock.
Whether or not Austin Peay intended to foul at some point didn’t matter. Murry did…one second after the ball was inbounded. Deshields knocks down his two free-throws and it’s back to three.
Again, it’s Robinson that’s sent to the line, and again he delivers. Lead is back to three, and there’s still somehow five seconds off the clock.
This time, I know for certain Austin Peay didn’t intend to foul.
…but they did anyway. They fouled Deshields, again, with :00.7 left.
While he was shooting a three-point shot.
Three free-throws would tie it for Tennessee State. But first — a monitor review. Was it really a three-point attempt? With the season on the line, Deshields is forced to wait as the refs try to determine how many free-throws he should take.
They give him three.
It wouldn’t matter. Deshields missed the first. The comeback was sealed. Austin Peay is in the semifinals for the first time since 2011.
And Chris Horton gets at least one more game.
What it means: I had this section completely written with about 10 minutes to go in the game. I had this whole thing about how when Chris Horton is sitting in the bar with his buddies in 10 years, and was looking back on his time in college, this isn’t the game he’d want to remember.
It sure is now. And it wasn’t even his best game in the last 48 hours.
I’m sure there are words to describe what happened on the floor in the final eight minutes, but I’m not entirely sure what they were. Horton look frustrated all night. The guards couldn’t get him the ball. Austin Peay couldn’t get a stop inside.
And then, the stars aligned. The offense was kicking and driving the ball, drawing fouls and getting to the free-throw line. The defense locked down. After 30 minutes of having no answers, they had every answer.
…and they still nearly gave it away.
For Austin Peay fans, this is a “where were you” type of night, that we’ll remiss about for years to come.
And it was just the quarterfinals. There could still be two more of these.
Player of the night: So. Many. Options. But it was Robinson’s clutch free-throws in the final seconds (after missing equally clutch free-throws minutes earlier) that get my nod for tonight.
What’s next: We get a 1 vs 8 matchup after all. Austin Peay will play Belmont tomorrow night. The Bruins won the first matchup by 18.
What it means: Wow.
Tennessee Tech’s loss last night was one thing. TTU didn’t have either the right gameplan or personell to stop Horton. It was clear from the start. It was a trend through the game.
Tennessee State did stop Horton, at least for 20 minutes. Even by the end of the game, his 15-point performance is below average. (although had he hit more than 5-12 free-throws, he probably would have been closer to his season average)
But then, inexplicaby, the defense that TSU had ridden all season to get them to 20 wins, a single-bye in Nashville, failed them. Ford said in post game that it wasn’t their offense that cost them down the stretch (although the Tigers shot just 36.7% in the second half) it was their defense, which allowed Austin Peay to shoot 13-21 (61.9%) from the field in the last 20 minutes, and sent the Governos to the free-throw line 30 times in the last half alone.
Ford will take the blame, but given how well their gameplan worked early, it’s hard to put it all on his shoulders.
Player of the Night: I haven’t even mentioned Wayne Martin‘s night yet, and I need to. He finished with a double-double: 15 points, and a game-high 13 rebounds.
What’s Next: TSU’s season isn’t done yet, unless they want it to be, and Ford seemed to indicate they’ll play in a postseason tournament this year.