Central Connecticut St. (2-1) vs. Austin Peay (1-2)
When: Friday, 11/16, 11:30am
Where: Montego Bay, Jamaica
How to Watch: CBS Sports Network
Austin Peay- 197/189
Kenpom- Austin Peay 75-72 (62%)
T-Rank- Austin Peay 77-73 (68%)
Possible Starting Lineups:
G- Tyson Batiste, 6’2” Jr.
G- Ian Krishnan, 6’2” Fr.
F- Tyler Kohl, 6’5” Sr.
F- Jamir Coleman, 6’7” Jr.
C- Deion Bute, 6’9” Sr.
G- Steve Harris, 6'4" Sr.
G- Dayton Gumm, 6'2" Soph.
G- Chris Porter-Bunton, 6'5" Sr.
F- Terry Taylor, 6'5" Soph.
C- Ivan Cucak, 7'0" Soph.
About Austin Peay:
Losses: A-#278 South Florida (84-80, OT); A- #20 Mississippi St. (95-67)
Head coach Matt Figger is in his 2nd season at the helm of Austin Peay, after serving as the associate head coach under Frank Martin at South Carolina, capitalizing on the team’s 2017 Final Four run. He took over for Dave Loos, who retired after 27 seasons and four NCAA Tournament appearances. Figger’s promotion was not unlike Donyell Marshall’s; taking over for a long tenured and super successful head coach after a down period (APSU did make the NCAA tournament in 2016, but finished 7-9 in the OVC that season, and Loos was just 27-53 in conference play over his final five seasons).
Unlike Marshall, however, Figger had immediate success last season in his first as a D1 head coach. The Governors finished 12-6 in the OVC in 2017-18 (their best record since 2011), and eventually earned a bid to the CollegeInsider.com Tournament, losing to Illinois-Chicago in the second round.
This year’s version of the Governors are led by sophomore Terry Taylor, a 6’5” 217 lb. small ball 4 who is averaging 19 ppg and 10.3 rpg, building on his freshman season during which he 15.6 ppg and 8.6 rpg on his way to OVC Rookie of the Year, ahead of Murray St’s Ja Morant, who is a legitimate NBA prospect. APSU was picked fourth in the pre-season coaches poll (as well as by Blue Ribbon), and are generally seen as a darkhorse title contender.
The other returning double-digit scorer is sophomore 2-guard Dayton Gumm, a late signee after Figger was hired. Gumm chipped in 10.3 ppg as a freshman, and shot 37% from three in OVC play. He’s coming off a tough game; just 2 points in 19 minutes against South Florida, however did score 14 points in the road loss to Mississippi St.
The Governors currently have five players averaging between 8 and 10 ppg, including Zach Glotta (15 points, including 7 of 7 from the FT line against South Florida), Steve Harris (17 points at Mississippi St.), backup wing Jarrett Givens (16 points in the win over Oakland City), Chris Porter-Bunton (36% from three last season), and Gumm.
Gumm, Porter-Bunton and Taylor combine to form a solid 2-3-4 for Matt Figger, but he’s really struggled in filling the minutes at the 1 and the 5. Freshman Antwuan Butler got the first crack at the PG spot, but he struggled in the loss to Mississippi St. (1 assist, 3 turnovers and 4 fouls in 19 minutes) so Figger turned to senior Steve Harris, who is maybe not as much of a playmaker but is also more steady, though he had five turnovers against 3 assists in the loss to South Florida.
Up front, JUCO transfer Eli Abaev was expected to get the majority of the minutes as a stretchy-5, however he’s out indefinitely with a hip injury. Senior Jabari McGhee (grad transfer from Western Kentucky) and 7’0” sophomore Ivan Cucak have split the minutes up front, but both have been generally underwhelming.
Player to Watch: Terry Taylor
Taylor is very much in the Keith Braxton (St. Francis U.) mold; an undersized 4 who presents a matchup problem offensively, and a guy who rebounds the hell out of it despite being just 6’5”.
The now-sophomore did it all a season ago; he shot 43% from three, converted at the rim (70%), was 2nd in the OVC in OR% (13.2%), and he rarely turned it over. Oh, and he had a 4% block rate for good measure.
Through two D1 games, he hasn’t quite shot it as well, as his eFG% is at 50% (was 59.2% last year), but it’s a two-game sample and certainly no conclusions should be drawn from that. Instead, expect to see a guy who will knock down shots from outside, and also has the ability to take the ball to the rim off the dribble. So far this year he’s up to a 28.1% usage rate (from 22.3% last season), as he’s now the focal point of the APSU offense.
Taylor is probably the best non-Georgetown player CCSU will have faced to date, and will present quite a matchup. Look for Jamir Coleman to start out on him defensively, but Tyler Kohl, Kashaun Hicks and even possibly Karrington Wallace will all have an opportunity try and D him up.
Things to Watch:
Points in the Paint
I know the Blue Devils have been on fire from three-point land these last two games, however the strength for this team remains in the frontcourt. APSU has struggled to protect the rim in their two games so far this season, allowing opponents to convert 64.5% of their 2-point attempts. Yes, most of that is playing on the road at an SEC school (Mississippi St. made 30 of their 39 2PA).
However, this was also an issue last year for the Governors; they allowed OVC opponents to shoot 50.6% on twos, 8th in the league, and their 9.3% block rate was 7th. Their best shot-blocker from a season ago, Averyl Ugba, is gone to graduation, and while they do have some size on the roster this year, namely McGhee and Cucak (as well as little used 7’0” freshman Matheus Silveira), neither has been particularly effective. The Blue Devils will generally have the size advantage up front in this game, and should use it to their advantage.
For as well as Central Connecticut has played in their first three games, they’ve struggled (somewhat surprisingly) on the defensive boards; Hartford grabbed 34% of their opportunities, while UMass-Lowell had a 37.1% OR%. Anecdotally, the issue has been boxing out, with Deion Bute and Tyler Kohl being sometimes the only effective defensive rebounders on the floor.
APSU likes to get after it on the offensive boards, and while their 29.3% OR% is underwhelming, consider their opponents. Last season, Matt Figger’s club ranked 15th nationally, grabbing 34.8% of their offensive rebounding opportunities, and while Ugba (2nd on the team with a 10.6% OR%) is gone, Taylor is one of the best at offensive rebounding, and Jabari McGhee has been solid so far.
Austin Peay is similar to UMass-Lowell in that they like to use the dribble drive to attack the rim and get to the foul line; last season the Gov's had a 35.9 free throw rate (98th nationally), and this season so far they are up to a 54.9 rate (26th).
Terry Taylor and Steve Harris, specifically, are guys who get to the line in abundance. And they make them; Taylor is shooting 73% in his short career, while Harris is 8 for 10 so far this year.
Fouling has not really plagued the Blue Devils so far this year, as they are in the middle of the pack nationally in foul rate. However, Deion Bute and Joe Hugley continue to be plagued by foul trouble, and Karrington Wallace has been immune to those issues either.
Friday's matchup is quite a barometer for Central Connecticut; while Austin Peay's current rankings may be a bit high given their point guard concerns, a team in the upper quartile of the Ohio Valley Conference is generally equivalent to a top flight Northeast Conference. What's more, this team is built similarly to NEC favorite St. Francis University. Both teams generally play a 4 guard lineup, with their best player being an undersized 4 (Keith Braxton and Terry Taylor).
I think APSU is a solid team, and may be an OVC title contender. However, I like the matchup for the Blue Devils; they should be able to pound the ball inside with regularity.
If they can contain Taylor, I like their chances to get to 3-1. But it'll take a really well played game by the Blue Devils, similar to what we've seen in their first three games.