OVC Ball Statbox
|(8) Austin Peay||38||45||83|
|18-17 (7-9 OVC)|
|(2) UT Martin||33||40||73|
|19-14 (10-6 OVC)|
|28/57 (49.1%)||Field Goals||27/63 (42.9%)|
|16/31 (51.6%)||3-Point FG||9/29 (31.0%)|
|11/15 (73.3%)||Free Throws||10/14 (71.4%)|
|35 (10/25)||Rebounds (O/D)||34 (13/21)|
|12||2nd Chance Pts||12|
|8||Points off TO||19|
|20||Pts in the Paint||32|
Tempo Tracker (Possessions)
Top 3 Gamescore
|PTS: 24||AST: 5||FG: 9-14||REB: 5|
|PTS: 24||3PT: 8-14||REB: 9||AST: 2|
|PTS: 14||FG: 6-8||AST: 4||REB: 5|
(8) Austin Peay offense
(2) UT Martin offense
Do you believe in fate? The idea that a result is unchangable by one’s actions.
…because it’s as good as explanation I have for the past four days in Nashville.
Austin Peay wasn’t just an eight seed, they were off the radar of anyone. Murray State, the six seed, had the pedigree. Tennessee Tech, the five seed, was in the title race just two weeks prior, as was Tennessee State, the four seed. Morehead State, the three seed was the hotest team in the league entering the tournament, and UT Martin, the two seed, was right behind them. Belmont, the one-seed, was the defending champs.
In the week leading up to this tournament, I heard arguments, and made some myself, about all of the top six seeds. In a wide-open season any of those teams had a reasonable chance of winning a championship.
No one said that about Austin Peay.
Yet here we stand. The Governors are going dancing. Not the Racers, Golden Eagles, Tigers, Eagles, Skyhawks and Bruins.
The Austin Peay State University Governors. The eight-seed. The underdog of underdogs.
Think about what had to happen for Austin Peay to get here. In the opening round, the Governors got a career night from their senior and leader, Chris Horton.
The next night, Austin Peay had to pull off a comeback for the ages — erasing a 19-point second half deficit, and overcoming crucial free-throw misses to beat Tennessee State.
One night later, the Governors survived not one, but two last second field goal attempts from the number one shooting team in the league — surviving the final attempts by just tenths of a second.
And on the final night, Austin Peay watched their leader writhe in pain on the ground and leave the game. They got up big, against a team they blew a big lead to just weeks prior…and they responded with a school record for the most three-pointers in a game…in Austin Peay basketball history.
On any one of these nights, the Governors could have tripped up. On any one, the Governors could have returned to Clarksville, with no medals or trophies.
But they didn’t. Every challenge, unique and different as they may be, they passed. They hit seemingly every big bucket. A freshman had not one, but two career scoring highs in a single tournament. Their coach — who, as UT Martin head coach Heath Schroyer put it, has had people “on his butt for I don’t know why for years,” made the right adjustments at the right time.
Everything fell into place.
But for me to call it fate also shortchanges all of that. It wasn’t an inevitability. Those players and coaches had to earn all of it: the deep threes, the comebacks, the dominance — that wasn’t handed to them, it was accomplished.
That’s what makes the joy of it all so great.
One thing that’s been discussed for much of the week is #RallyForRyhan. As many Austin Peay fans know, Dave Loos‘ grandaughter had been fighting cancer, a terrible fate for anyone, much less a child. It’s been part of Loos’ motivation, and his players for months.
This is a very personal matter for Loos, and rightfully so.
May this win, this title, bring the family some joy in an otherwise painful time.
AUSTIN PEAY can go ahead an pack their bags for Dayton. (Update: Maybe not…) With an RPI of 196 and a KenPom ranking of 219, it’s hard to see four other teams heading to the First Four instead of the Governors.
This is a very, very good thing for the Govs, and the OVC as a whole.
First, for the Governors, Austin Peay has to have a great chance to compete in a 16 v 16 game. Horton will likely be one of, if not the best player on the floor, and the rise of Josh Robinson and especially freshman Jared Savage give the Governors a trio to be envied. It’s a much better situation than having to face a No. 1 seed immediately.
For the conference, First Four wins count as a first round win, which means the OVC will earn approximately $150,000 a year for six years.
That money made from the OVC’s run of four wins in four years is starting to dry up. A win now would help keep that flow going.
Even if Austin Peay goes to Dayton in loses, this year has been an unmitigated suceess. For years and decades to come, there will always be the stories of how one team defied the odds, and a tournament format meant to favor the top seeds, to win the most unprobable of championships.
UT MARTIN’s first trip to the NCAA’s will have to wait at least one more year.
A night after the Skyhawks offense couldn’t be stopped, UT Martin couldn’t buy a basket for much of the game. Jacobly Mobley was 2-11 from three-point range, a night after his game-high 22 point performance. UTM went from +12 in rebounds against one of the best rebounding teams in the league to -1. They shot 21 fewer free-throws, and fell in love with jump shots when they weren’t falling.
All-in-all, this season is a resounding success for a program that more used to missing the tournament entirely than playing for a title.
The next few weeks, and months, could be interesting.
By making the OVC finals, UT Martin should get a CIT or CBI bid, but so should TSU, TTU, and Morehead State. Is four too much to ask?
And, once the season winds to an end, will Heath Schroyer return? He may have only been in Martin for two seasons, but he’ll likely garner interest given his two-year run with the Skyhawks.
For now, UT Martin should celebrate the year, and prepare for the next. Because there’s no reason for the Skyhawks to go back down now that they’ve risen up.