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Austin Peay Comes to Play on Defense

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - After his team was thoroughly beaten by Austin Peay in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament semifinal, Murray State head coach Billy Kennedy probably said it best.
“I thought in the first five minutes of the game, they dictated how the game was going to be played physically,” said the third-year Racer mentor. “I thought they were very aggressive and forced us way out of where we wanted to start our offense.”
One of his players said it in a simpler way.
“They had more heart than us tonight,” senAustin Peay head coach Carrie Daniels, center, celebrates with her team after defeating Eastern Illinois in the championship game of the Ohio Valley Conference NCAA College women's basketball game in Nashville, Tenn., Saturday, March 7, 2009. Austin Peay won the game 69-65 in double overtime.ior Kevin Thomas added.
Simply put, the Governors wanted the game more, and it was evident right away. In the early going, they got all kinds of defensive stops - a jump ball, a steal, a shot clock violation - and generally took Murray State out what they wanted to do. They were aggressive at both ends of the floor, and while it didn’t happen right away, the offense picked up from it as well. The early 13-2 lead they built up was no accident, and their defense was the reason they had an 11-point lead at halftime despite shooting around 39 percent from the field.

Although you could see it early, in the second half it was obvious that the defense energized the Governors to do other things. They got just about every loose ball and kept it up even when the pace of the game picked up early in the second half. Then the pace settled down, and the Governors ran offense in a textbook fashion, working the shot clock well and getting several baskets late in the clock. They shot 62.5 percent in the second frame and built the lead as high as 22.
“I was especially pleased with our defensive effort,” Austin Peay head coach Dave Loos said. “I had no idea that this game would turn out like it did in terms of the margin.”
Loos noted that the team has been a little inconsistent on defense. Scoring hasn’t been a problem for them, as they average 76 points per game to rank second in the conference. But the defense has at times come and gone, and Loos had a little concern about it. The significance of the game added to how pleased he was with it.
When the offense picked up from it, you could tell the game was basically over. Drake Reed came alive in the second half, scoring 13 of his 18 points on 5-6 shooting. As he usually does, he did it in the flow of the offense and didn’t force anything.
The game was a matchup of two teams that are usually in this spot. For 24 straight years, either Austin Peay or Murray State has been in the OVC semifinals, and for the last 23 of those years, at least one is in the title game. On this night, as was the case all season as they won both regular season meetings in a similar fashion, the Governors had a clear edge to advance to the final for the third year in a row.


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