2007 Ohio Valley Tournament Recap
#2 Eastern Kentucky 63, #1 Austin Peay 62
Championship games allow for anonymous players to become stars at least for a single day.
Down by one with six seconds left in the game and a NCAA Tournament berth on the line, Eastern Kentucky (21-11) got the ball to a freshman forward averaging three points per game. Whether or not Colonels head coach Jeff Neubauer had it drawn up that way, Josh Taylor’s floater dropped through with 2.9 seconds left and Eastern Kentucky beat regular-season champion Austin Peay 63-62 Saturday night for the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament championship.
“The key is he just made a good basketball play,” Neubauer said in the post-game press conference. “That shows what a good basketball player he is. He figured it out on the fly at a crucial part of our season and made a good basketball play to get in the lane.” It was the only points Taylor had all game.
The Governors had beaten EKU twice during the regular season but a frustratingly bad shooting performance put the third victory out of reach. Austin Peay had come into Saturday leading the conference in three-point field goal percentage but the constantly switching EKU defenses took the shooters out of rhythm. APSU went through a period during the second half where they missed 13 consecutive field goals and ended the night only five of 22 from beyond the arc.
“We just couldn’t make any shots,” Austin Peay head coach Dave Loos said. “We had some open looks from the perimeter, and we couldn’t make enough free throws. It’s what it boils down to.”
The Governors will receive a bid to the National Invitational Tournament according to the new rule that guarantees a spot to every league’s regular season champion if they fail to receive a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
“It’s devastating for these kids and for all of us,” said Loos. “I feel especially bad for them. They wanted it very badly.”
Austin Peay forward Drake Reed, the OVC player of the year, struggled all evening as the sophomore made only six of 17 from the field and missed five of eight from the line.
Eastern Kentucky guard Mike Rose led all scorers with 19 points and was named tournament most valuable player. However, it was the clutch shooting of freshman guard Adam Leonard. Back-to-back three-pointers by the Missouri native gave the Colonels a 59-51 lead with two and a half minutes left in the game.
Austin Peay had one more rally in them after head coach Dave Loos called a timeout. The Governors regrouped to go on a 12-2 run to take a 62-61 lead until Taylor’s game-winning basket.
Eastern Kentucky clinched their seventh NCAA Tournament berth and first since 2005 when then-head coach Travis Ford nearly pulled a first round upset while facing his alma mater (Kentucky) as the Colonels fell 72-64.
Ford quickly left that offseason to become the head coach at Massachusetts and one might assume after guiding EKU back to the dance two years later Neubauer may receive the same offers.
The OVC champion has not advanced past the first round since 1989 and EKU has never won a NCAA Tournament game in school history.