Story by Blake Sandlin, Assistant Sports Editor
Racer basketball will face a formidable test when it welcomes the OVC’s third-ranked team in Austin Peay tonight.
The Racers are coming off a two-game road stint where they swept both of their opponents to extend their winning streak to five. If they win Thursday, they’ll have their longest winning streak of the year. Similarly, the Governors are nursing a streak of their own. They’re riding a four-game winning streak and sit just one game behind Murray State in the conference standings.
To the surprise of just about everyone, Austin Peay has solidified itself as a force to be reckoned with in the OVC. The Govs were picked to finish 11th out of 12 teams in the conference in the preseason, but they’ve proven the experts wrong and now sit at 9-3 in the conference. Highlighted by a 20-point win against last 2017 OVC Champion Jacksonville State, Austin Peay has beaten their conference opponents by an average point total of 11.7 points.
What’s makes them so good? The Govs have dominated on the offensive glass all year, averaging 14 offensive rebounds per game. The next-highest rebounding average by an OVC team is Morehead State’s 11.9.
Complementing their rebounding prowess is a dynamic duo that combines for nearly 30 points per night. Freshman guard Terry Taylor has burst onto the scene this year, and averages 15.8 PPG while senior forward Averyl Ugba adds 15 PPG. The two players also lead the OVC in offensive rebounding, averaging 4.1 and 3.0 rebounds per game, respectively.
Despite prolific play by their freshman phenom and their veteran forward, Austin Peay has faced some stumbling blocks. The Govs suffered two deflating losses to Tennessee Tech (86-74) and Tennessee State (70-56), two teams Murray State handily defeated by 26 and 19, respectively. They’ve struggled to outlast their opponents on the road this year, sitting at 3-8 away from home.
Keys to Victory
- Don’t ball watch: Austin Peay is quick to the offensive glass when a shot goes up, as its first-place ranking in offensive rebounding can attest. Murray State would be wise to avoid ball-watching, and crash the glass with a vengeance in order to prevent extra shots from the Govs. On the flip side, remarkably, Austin Peay is the worst defensive rebounding team in the conference. A concerted effort by the Racers to rebound the ball on offense would go a long way in winning this rivalry game.
- Force them to shoot: The Govs are the worst three-point shooting team in the OVC. They average just 5.5 threes per game and are near the bottom of the ladder in three-point field goal percentage, shooting just over 32 percent. If the Racers can force Austin Peay into tough threes, they’ll have a good chance of coming out with a win.
- Pressure the ball: Austin Peay is among the worst in taking care of the ball, and turns the ball over 15.1 times a conference. If Murray State hopes to run away with this game, they will need to pressure the Govs and force them to turn the ball over.
- Make them earn it: If nothing else, make Austin Peay earn it from the stripe. The Governors are the worst free-throw shooting team in the Ohio Valley, shooting just over 65 percent.
How to Watch
Thursday’s game will be broadcast to a national audience on CBS Sports Network. The game will tip-off at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 8 at the CFSB Center.