|Saturday, March 8
Tennessee Tech denied NCAA bid -- again
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Dave Loos thought his Austin Peay Governors were better than the fifth place they finished in the Ohio Valley Conference. He never expected this.
Corey Gipson and Anthony Davis each scored 13 points to lead Austin Peay to a 63-57 victory over Tennessee Tech in the Ohio Valley Conference championship game Saturday, as the Governors earned their fifth NCAA Tournament berth.
"I can't say I predicted this. I don't think anybody could," Loos said of his Governors' first NCAA appearance since 1996.
Austin Peay (23-7) added its third OVC tournament title to its share of the regular-season title because of a defense that has held nine opponents to fewer than 60 points. The Governors are undefeated in those games.
"Through the season, I've heard people say these guys are overachievers,'' Loos said. "That's not true on the defensive end. These guys are the best on the defensive end. They discussed early in the season that they could succeed that way. They've really taken great pride in that and made their defense a priority."
Austin Peay center Josh Lewis was selected tournament MVP after getting 11 points and nine rebounds.
"Our defense brought us here, and defense is going to take us all the way,'' he said.
The biggest performance came from Gipson who shut down Cameron Crisp. The Tennessee Tech guard had 22 points in the semifinals but managed just four Saturday as he got into early foul trouble and played only 21 minutes.
"It adjusts your rotation,'' Tennessee Tech coach Mike Sutton said. "It's always a factor. (He's) one of the better guards in the league, and you want to keep him on the floor. He got limited minutes, and I think it hurts him in terms of getting a rhythm."
Tennessee Tech (20-12) had won six straight games, but the Golden Eagles lost in the championship game for a second straight year. Tennessee Tech last won the OVC tournament in 1967.
Crisp said losing in the title game last year by a point to Murray State was tough. This loss may be worse.
"We've had it in the back of our mind since that point to make it back here and win the championship and make it to the NCAA tournament. But it didn't come out that way," Crisp said.
The Governors won their sixth straight game and 14th of 15 at the free throw line. They went 19-of-27 there compared to Tennessee Tech's 8-of-12. The Golden Eagles outrebounded Austin Peay 37-32 but made only three field goals over the final five minutes.
"That's another area we stepped up in," Loos said. "We missed a few. We made some big ones."
Tennessee Tech trailed from the opening tip until Jolly's 3-pointer with 16:01 left tied the game at 41. Antwyon Jones' dunk at 14:52 gave the Golden Eagles their first lead of the game and the teams swapped the lead three more times, with Tennessee Tech never leading by more than three points.
Austin Peay, which shot 48 percent in taking a 37-34 halftime lead, couldn't find the basket most of the second half. The Governors hit only three of their first 13 shots, and Gipson's 3 with 14:27 left were there last points before a scoreless streak that lasted nearly five minutes.
Lewis, who preserved the Govs' semifinal victory with a last-second blocked shot, then took over. Tennessee Tech led 47-44 when Lewis made two free throws, then dunked to put Austin Peay up 48-47 with 9:02 to go.
Austin Peay preserved their victory by going 10-of-16 at the free throw line over the final 7:17.