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Indians find Austin Peay still perfect in the OVC
CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. -- Southeast Missouri State University's Indians had arguably their worst performance of the season when they opened Ohio Valley Conference play on Jan. 8 with a 52-48 home loss to Austin Peay.
The Indians (9-7, 2-3) hope to make amends when they take on the first-place Governors (9-7, 6-0) today in a 2 p.m. tipoff at the Dunn Center.
"We played really bad against them the last time and still had a chance to win," junior guard Derek Winans said. "Hopefully we'll play a lot better and be able to beat them."
Easier said than done, as Southeast coach Gary Garner was quick to point out. Austin Peay rarely wins games pretty, but the Govs always seem to win. They are the defending OVC co-champions and returned their top eight players from that squad, making them solid favorites to repeat.
"We really played poorly against them last time, but so many times they make you play that way," Garner said. "They are such a good defensive team. I t seems like their games are always ugly, but they usually win those kinds of games."
Austin Peay, which has won 20 straight home games, is last in the OVC in scoring with an average of just 64 points per game. But that hasn't held the Govs back one bit. Nor has a field-goal percentage of 42 percent.
As they did last year, the Govs are again winning with defense. They are allowing an average of just 61 points per game to rank second in the OVC, and they lead the way in field-goal defense at 40 percent.
Sparking the Govs' defense is 6-foot-8 senior center Josh Lewis, who is averaging nearly three blocked shots per game and routinely alters countless more. Lewis also averages 10.7 points and 7.8 rebounds. He had 10 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks in the earlier meeting against Southeast.
"Lewis is probably the biggest reason they're such a good defensive team," Garner said. "He just changes the game so much."
Also averaging in double figures for the Govs are 6-6 senior forward Adrian Henning (12.9 ppg) and 6-2 junior guard/forward Anthony Davis (12.1 ppg).
Against Southeast on Jan. 8, Henning and Davis combined for just 12 points, but 6-9 sophomore reserve center Zac Schlader helped pick up the slack with a team-high 12 points.
Southeast shot just 29.2 percent in the first half of that game, falling behind 22-7 at one point and still trailing 29-20 at halftime.
While still not shooting well in the second half, the Indians rallied and closed to within two with possession of the ball in the final 20 seconds. But they missed a shot and Austin Peay held on.
"We had a chance to win the last game," said senior center Brandon Griffin, who scored 17 points in the contest. "Hopefully we'll get them this time."
If the Indians are to win today, they'll need to bounce back from Thursday's tough 74-73 loss at Tennessee Tech that began their two-game road trip.
The Indians trailed by 18 points in the first half but rallied to force a 73-73 tie in the final 30 seconds. But with just 2.8 seconds remaining, Southeast guard Mike Nelke was whistled for a controversial non-shooting foul as Tech guard Will Moore penetrated into the lane.
Moore made one of two free throws to beat the Indians. Southeast has suffered its three OVC losses by a total of seven points.
"A shot here or there in those three games and we're sitting here 5-0, or maybe at the worst 4-1, and feeling really good," Garner said. "But the big thing is not to get down on ourselves. We're so close to being a good team. Hopefully some of these close games will start going our way."