Men’s basketball team completes sweep of top OVC teams, defeats Austin Peay 83-80

Blake Faith, Men's Basketball Reporter

Eastern’s men’s basketball team flipped the script on the momentum of their OVC tournament chances for the second straight game. 

Eastern defeated first-place Austin Peay in an 83-80 overtime win Saturday, which was also senior day.

“Murray and Austin Peay are like hometown games to me,” senior JaQualis Matlock said. “So this feels good to me.”

With 11:11 left in the second half the Panthers were down 61-48. 

The Governors’ second-leading scorer, Jordyn Adams, went 3-of-3 from the three-point line prior to scoring nine of his game-high 31 points. The Panthers then willed themselves back to within seven points behind the scoring ability of junior Josiah Wallace and the inside finishing of junior Jordan Skipper-Brown. 

With four minutes left in the second half the Panthers began chipping away at the lead again. Junior Mack Smith made a three-pointer and a layup, senior Shareef Smith made a three-pointer and junior George Dixon brought the Panthers back to tie the Governors at 67-67.The Panthers finished the second half trading buckets between Wallace and Adams. Down 73-71 junior George Dixon stepped to the line to make two free throws to send the Panthers into overtime. 

“George started out struggling, but gosh did he come on and make big plays,” Eastern head coach Jay Spoonhour said. “We don’t win the game if he doesn’t go 6-8 from free throws. The guy has worked hard on free throws and works on them every day.”

Dixon and junior Marvin Johnson combined for 3-of-4 free-throw-shooting to put the Panthers up 77-76 in overtime. Terry Taylor, the OVC’s leading scorer and rebounder, then went on to score four of his six overtime points to put the Governors backup 79-76.

Wallace then scored four of his six overtime points by making a game-tying layup and then making two free-throws to put the Panthers up 82-80 with 46.5 seconds left. 

“He’s (Wallace) a for sure scorer for our team,” Shareef Smith said. “So we kinda just keep riding with him.”

The Panthers got the ball back into Mack Smith’s hands for him to go down and make 1-of-2 from the free throw line with 4.6 seconds left. Right before the final buzzer, Austin Peay got a shot off that missed.

In the first half, Taylor played efficiently. Taylor shot 5-of-9 from the field, 2-of-3 from the three-point line and 4-of-4 from the free throw line. Taylor finished the first half with 16 points and seven rebounds. 

The Panthers responded to Taylor with the playmaking abilities of Mack Smith and Shareef Smith and the scoring efficiency of Josiah Wallace.

Midway through the first half Mack Smith rattled off five straight points by making a three-pointer and getting to the rim to make a layup to give the Panthers a 15-14 lead. Smith increased his streak of consecutive games with a made three-pointer to 77 games. 

The Governors’ response was an 8-2 run, led by Taylor, who had five of those points to give the Governors a 20-16 lead. The Governors’ finished the first half with a 35-34 lead.

The Panthers improved to 14-14 and 7-9 in conference play with the win. The Panthers are currently tied for sixth place in the OVC standings.

With the loss, Austin Peay is now tied for first with Murray State and Belmont. Belmont has a better overall record than Murray State and Austin Peay, though..

“When you’ve had some tough times late in games a feeling starts to build, but the best way to erase that feeling is to go out and win a close game,” Spoohour said. “We showed that if we get into this conference tournament we can do something.”

Blake Faith can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]