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Redhawks must slow down Govs' dynamic duo
A pair of seniors play a pivotal role for Austin Peay.
It's true that Austin Peay is relying on several freshmen to fill key roles this season.
But it's also true that the Governors' main men continue to be their two senior stalwarts who have already been a part of two Ohio Valley Conference regular-season championship teams, along with three squads that reached OVC tournament title games.
When Southeast Missouri State (6-8, 3-5 OVC) hosts Austin Peay (9-6, 4-3) at 7:30 tonight at the Show Me Center, the Redhawks will be focused on the Govs' high-scoring duo of Maurice Hampton and Zac Schlader.
"We have to control Hampton and Schlader," Southeast coach Gary Garner said. "We probably won't stop them, but we at least have to control them."
Hampton, a 6-foot-2 guard, is the OVC's second-leading scorer at 17.9 points per game, although he is shooting just 39.3 percent from the field and 27.3 percent on 3-pointers. He made just one of 15 shots during Thursday's 67-56 loss at Murray State.
Schlader, a rugged 6-9 center, is averaging 14 points and a team-high six rebounds.
"He's such a force inside, big and strong," Garner said of Schlader. "He's kind of the cornerstone of their team. With he and Hampton, they have the inside/outside. Some teams have the outside, but not both."
Two freshmen start for Austin Peay, which relies on two other freshmen for quality minutes off the bench -- including a player with Southeast ties -- but coach Dave Loos has no doubt about the Govs' key to success.
"I'm pleased with what they are doing," Loos said of his freshmen. "Of course, when we recruited them we thought they could really contribute, but they're probably doing it a little sooner than we thought.
"But Hampton and Schlader ... both guys, if I could write a script for picking two leaders, I don't think I could pick better ones on and off the court. They're our two hardest workers, and they've been two terrific leaders for our freshmen."
Another key for the Govs has been an ability to get to the free throw line -- and succeed there.
Austin Peay has made and attempted the second-most free throws in the OVC -- 251 of 335 -- and their percentage of 74.9 also ranks second in the conference.
By comparison, the Redhawks are 177 of 244 from the charity stripe, although their percentage also is solid at 72.5.
"It's part of our philosophy," Loos said of getting to the free throw line. "We rely a great deal on penetration, whether it's a pass or dribble. We'll continue to do that.
"Fortunately we've gotten our better free throw shooters to the line."
Hampton is shooting 84.5 percent from the line (82 of 97), while Schlader is at 75.4 percent (43 of 57).
Also faring well in that area is 6-1 freshman guard Landon Shipley, who has made and attempted the third-most free throws among the Govs, while hitting 83.3 percent (40 of 48).
Shipley, the son of former Southeast guard Dave Shipley -- who played at Southeast from 1975 to 1979 -- is the Govs' third-leading scorer at seven points per game, despite averaging just 13.4 minutes a contest off the bench. He has hit 15 of 33 3-pointers (45.5 percent).
"As a freshman, he has come off the bench and done a real good job," Loos said.
Southeast, led by senior guard Roy Booker -- the OVC's top scorer with a 20.7 average -- has gained some momentum by winning two of its past three games, including its first conference road victory.
The Redhawks have played five of their first eight OVC games on the road, and they'll have seven of their first 11 conference games away from home before playing six of their last nine league games at the Show Me Center.
"So much of it is where you've played your games," Garner said. "We're not quite where I'd hoped we'd be, but realistically, if we were 4-4, considering the way the schedule has broken, I would be pretty happy, so we're not that far off."
While tied for eighth place in the 11-team OVC, the Redhawks are just 1 1/2 games behind Austin Peay, which is deadlocked for fourth place.
"The middle of the conference is pretty scrambled," Garner said. "A team that wins a couple of games can move up pretty quickly."
Beating the Govs -- who have won all four of their OVC home games, but are 0-3 in conference road games -- would certainly give the Redhawks a lift before they head back out on the road next week.
"Going on the road for two more after this ... no game is a must win, but this is about as close as it gets for right now," Garner said.