RECAP: Austin Peay Completes Improbable Run to NCAA Tournament with 83-73 Win over Tennessee-Martin

Austin Peay became the first ever 8-seed to win the Ohio Valley Conference tournament, earning an NCAA Tournament berth with an 83-73 victory over UT-Martin on Saturday night.
Austin Peay became the first ever 8-seed to win the Ohio Valley Conference tournament, earning an NCAA Tournament berth with an 83-73 victory over UT-Martin on Saturday night.

Playing their fourth game in as many days, the Austin Peay Governors were looking to make some history on Saturday night.

After knocking off the Belmont Bruins in the Ohio Valley Conference semi-finals the night before, the Governors turned their attention to the tournament finale. Austin Peay came into the tournament with a 14-17 record overall, and were the 8-seed in the bracket.

No 8-seed has ever won the OVC tournament title, but the Governors looked like a team that couldn’t be stopped.

Against the UT-Martin Skyhawks on Saturday, the Governors found themselves as the underdogs once again. The Skyhawks looked impressive in their tournament run, and knocked off the Morehead State Eagles in their semi-final showdown on Friday.

Only one of the two could represent the conference in the NCAA Tournament, and the Governors continues their Cinderella run to the big dance with another impressive performance.

Freshman guard Jared Savage went 8-of-14 from three point range for 24 points, and Austin Peay completed their run through the conference tournament with an 83-73 victory over the UT-Martin Skyhawks.

With the Governors playing their fourth game in as many days, the Skyhawks came out of the gates on fire and were looking to capitalize on an Austin Peay team who should have been exhausted. Back-to-back three pointers from Twymond Howard and Alex Anderson pushed the Skyhawks’ lead to 11-3 early on.

Despite being down early, the Governors surprised nearly everyone and kicked things into a higher gear and took control of the game.

Austin Peay reeled off a 19-2 run to take the lead for good, and never looked back. Khalil Davis got things started with a layup, and Chris Horton pushed the Governors ahead for good, at 14-13, with a dunk just after the under-12 media break.

The lead would slowly grow as the half moved along, but Austin Peay fans were dealt a scare late in the half. Horton went down with an injury after going for a rebound, and went to the locker room to get taped up. He returned and played 34 minutes on the night, but wasn’t his usual self.

Austin Peay didn’t need him to be at his best, as others stepped up to lift the burden.

The Governors relied on their shooting, and it propelled them in the second half. They were able to stretch their lead to as many as 19 points in the second half, and didn’t look back on their trek to the NCAA Tournament.

Horton put in a layup at the 10:31 mark of the second half to stretch the lead to 62-43, and fans were starting to get excited about seeing their team in the NCAA Tournament.

Down the stretch, five made free throws from Josh Robinson put the final nail in the coffin, and the party was well under way back home in Clarksville, TN.

Austin Peay punched their ticket to the NCAA Tournament with an 83-73 victory over the UT-Martin Skyhawks.


 

With the injury he suffered in the first half, Chris Horton’s production was limited on Saturday. He finished with 8 points and 7 rebounds in the win. Freshman Jared Savage picked up the slack, scoring a team-high 24 points while doing all of his damage from three-point range, going 8-of-14 from beyond the arc.

Josh Robinson recorded 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists on the night.

For the Skyhawks, Twymond Howard was a steady force all game long. He played the entire 40 minutes, scoring a team-high 24 points to go along with 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 steals. His all-around performance wasn’t enough to lead the West Division co-champions to the NCAA Tournament.

Jacolby Mobley chipped in with 15 points, while Alex Anderson added 14 of his own.


Looking Ahead

With the win, the Austin Peay Governors (18-17, 7-9) become the first ever 8-seed to win the Ohio Valley Conference tournament. They are likely to find themselves in the First Four in Dayton, OH, but are in the NCAA Tournament regardless. If they play like this in the big dance, they would play their way into the Second Round.

Despite the loss, the UT-Martin Skyhawks (19-14, 10-6) still appear destined for a post-season appearance. After a slow start to the season, they turned things around in conference play and will be rewarded in the coming days. Look for the Skyhawks to appear in either the 2016 CBI or 2016 CIT events.

– T.B.

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