Morehead State takes OVC title over Austin Peay
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)—Morehead State coach Donnie Tyndall was so concerned about Steve Johnson four months ago he sat the youngster down and asked the freshman guard if he really wanted to play college basketball.
Johnson swore to Tyndall he was ready to prove himself.
Saturday night, Johnson backed it up by hitting the program’s biggest shot in a quarter-century. Johnson’s pull-up jumper on the baseline with 1.4 seconds remaining in double overtime lifted the Eagles to a 67-65 win over Austin Peay in the Ohio Valley Conference final.
It was Johnson’s only basket of the game, and it sent the Eagles to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1984.
“It’s just like I drew it up,” Tyndall said with a laugh.
Kenneth Faried had 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Eagles (19-15) as all five starters finished in double figures, the kind of balance that helped Morehead State overcome an 11-point second half deficit and one heartbreaking buzzer-beater by the Governors.
Drake Reed and Wes Channels led Austin Peay (19-13) with 16 points each but Austin Peay couldn’t defend its OVC title after missing all five of its shots in the second overtime.
“I don’t think we were really efficient with our possessions,” said Austin Peay coach Dave Loos. “I thought we got a little stagnant.”
The Eagles poured onto the floor as the buzzer sounded while Faried—the tournament MVP—hopped into the stands to hug his mother, who made the trip from Newark, N.J. to watch her son play.
“It’s special,” Faried said. “She’s put me through everything. She’s made me a tough-minded person.”
Faried and the Eagles needed that toughness after Faried’s alley-oop dunk gave them a 57-55 lead with 6.7 seconds remaining in regulation.
Austin Peay called timeout and Channels dribbled the length of the floor before losing the ball when he got into the lane. It squirted free to Caleb Brown, who banked in a leaner from about 12 feet as the horn sounded.
Tyndall quickly pulled his team over and told them to relax, that five more minutes of basketball was no big deal.
He was lying. It would be 10 more.
“Inside I was just saying to myself, ‘Can you believe this,”’ Tyndall said. “But I tell you what, our guys just kept fighting and banging away and … that’s March Madness.”
Brown’s exploits sent the game into overtime, and the teams struggled through the first extra session giving away chances to win the game.
Morehead State’s Demonte Harper got called for a charge while trying to get in the lane with 2.8 seconds left and the score tied at 63. Channels had his 3-pointer blocked by Faried at the buzzer to send it into a second overtime.
The Eagles took the lead early in overtime on a layup by Brandon Shingles. Austin Peay couldn’t get anything going as Faried shut down the middle.
Morehead State threw away a couple of chances to put the game away, and Austin Peay tied it at 65 on a pair of free throws by Reed with 28 seconds left.
The Eagles took over and after a timeout Shingles dribbled into the lane before finding Peterson in the corner. He pump faked, took a dribble and pulled up for the game-winner.
The shot finished a second-half collapse by the Governors, who appeared to be in control when they went up 42-31 with 14:09 remaining.
The Eagles kept hanging around as Faried got hot, eventually tying the game at 55 on a pair of free throws with 2:15 remaining.
The teams traded misses when Morehead State got the ball back with 41 seconds remaining. Brandon Shingles dribbled near midcourt as the clock wound down and appeared to put up what looked like a rushed 3-pointer from the top of the key. It wasn’t. The perfectly thrown alley-oop met Faried at the rim and he slammed it home.
The fun was just starting.
The win completed a turnaround for the program that began three years ago when coach Donnie Tyndall was hired to replace Kyle Macy following a 4-23 season that was among the worst in the country.
The process has been slow and steady, and the Eagles looked ready to compete for the regular season crown after sweeping the Governors during the regular season.
A late four-game slide had the Eagles reeling heading into the conference tournament, though they quickly rebounded with wins over Eastern Kentucky and top-seeded Tennessee Martin.
“I said when I got here I wasn’t trying to build a team, I was trying to build a program,” Tyndall said. “I thought maybe it would take four or five years to get to this point. So we’re a little ahead of schedule.”
A schedule that now includes a date in the NCAA tournament.