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Ohio Valley Conference Finals Recap

March 9, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments

Ohio Valley Finals Recap

Recap by Jeff Smith

Murray State 66, Austin Peay 60
The battle for supremacy in the OVC came down to a “Clash of the Titans” on Saturday night in the conference championship in Nashville, Tennessee. The conferences top two teams in Murray State and Austin Peay squared off in the rematch of February 14 which APSU won 63-56 in the only regular season match-up of the two teams. This time the Racers of Murray State held off the Governors 66-60 to reach the NCAA tournament for the fifth time in eight years.

Austin Peay (21-9) had ripped through the conference season with 16 regular season wins against zero losses and were looking for their 25th consecutive conference victory, dating back to last season. Murray State (28-5) came in to the game winners of seven straight games and 12 of their last 13. The game featured the league’s highest scoring offensive unit in the Racers at 81.6 points per contest versus the league’s best defensive unit, with APSU allowing just 60.2 points per outing.

APSU pushed its lead out to as much as seven at 24-17 on a three-pointer by senior guard Rhet Wierzba with 6:34 left, before MSU closed the first half with a strong 17-3 run and a 31-27 halftime advantage. Junior guard Adam Chiles started the Racers’ run with a layup at the 6:19 mark, while senior guard Rick Jones capped the run with a baseline jumper with just :03 seconds to go.

The second half featured several runs by the Govs, but APSU never could regain the lead after pulling even on three occasions at 33-33 with 15:56 to go, 35-35 with 15:23 to go and at 53-53 with 4:27 left in the game. MSU responded to the final tie with a 5-0 run sparked by a Chiles three-point play and a layup by senior forward Antione Whelchel.

The Govs pulled back to within three at 58-53 after a pair of free throws by sophomore guard Maurice Hampton following a technical foul on the Racers’ junior forward Kelvin Brown. However, the Govs weren’t able to capitalize on the opportunity with the ball after the MSU defense came up with a huge stop on the ensuing possession. The Racers converted 6-of-6 free throws over the final 1:01 to hold on for their 10th OVC Tournament title in the last 17 seasons.

With the loss the Governors, who played 15 of their first 18 games on the road, must hope they can at least receive a bid to the NIT. Senior forward Adrian Henning summed up the Governors plight after the loss by acknowledging that the OVC is a one bid league, but holding out hope for post-season play.

Following the contest, the Aeropostale OVC All-Tournament team was announced and included three Racers and two Governors. Murray State senior forward Cuthbert Victor was named tournament MVP, adding the latest accomplishment to his OVC Player of the Year Award, and the First-Team All-OVC Award. Antione Whelchel and Adam Chiles joined Victor as Racers named to the All-Tournament team. For APSU, senior center Josh Lewis and junior guard Anthony Davis were named to the tournament team as well. Sophomore guard Matt Witt of Eastern Kentucky rounded out the All-Tournament team.

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