EVANSVILLE, Ind. — The Eastern Illinois men’s basketball team played about as good of a first half as it could’ve hoped for against Austin Peay in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament quarterfinals on Thursday at the Ford Center.
EIU shot 51.9 percent and scored 40 points, and the Panthers held Austin Peay to 32.3 percent shooting and only 26 points.
It only took 8 minutes for EIU’s 14-point lead to disappear in the second half, though.
Zach Glotta led a fierce charge by Austin Peay early in the second half with four 3-pointers, and that tied the game at 46.
EIU slightly recovered and retook a lead, but it was short-lived, as Glotta’s 21-point second sparked the Governors' offense as they ended the Panthers season with a 73-66 win.
“I thought they really guarded us well and guarded us hard. That’s what they do, and we didn’t react well to that,” EIU coach Jay Spoonhour said. “When things went bad, it’s hard to turn it around. It’s happened to us a little more than it should. They certainly made shots.”
Glotta missed both of his shots in the first half, but he didn’t miss in the second. He was 6-of-6 from the field, including 5-of-5 from behind the arc. He did miss one free throw but was still 4-of-5 from the line.
“A couple of times we lost him, but he came off a couple of ball screens and made them,” Spoonhour said. “He did a good job. One of them was on a play we guarded well, one on a ball screen, he earned them — and he’s a good shooter and he can burn you.”
Glotta’s shots opened up the rest of Austin Peay’s offense. Dayton Gumm hit three 3-pointers in the second half and finished with 10 points. As a team, Austin Peay shot 50 percent in the second half and made eight 3s.
“When we don’t have Zach on the floor, we aren’t as good offensively. He has found his role and his niche with this team. Anytime he scores and gets shots, we find a way to win,” Austin Peay coach Matt Figger said. “When our guards play well, we win. They give us the added bonus of the outside game. When you have Zach and (Dayton) scoring from the perimeter, we are a good team.”
Even though Glotta hit five 3-pointers in the second, his defense was just as important. EIU freshman Mack Smith went into halftime with 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting. Glotta drew the second-half assignment on Smith and held him to only four shots.
“He defended his tail off,” Figger said. “He played with a lot of confidence, a lot of poise and answered the ball at halftime. ... In the second half, I thought he was the best player on the floor.”
The Governors didn’t just defend Smith well, they also paid close attention to Montell Goodwin, who had 10 points at halftime. In the second half, Austin Peay limited Goodwin to 5 points on 2-of-7 shooting.
“They kept the ball out of Silk’s hands, which was a smart move,” Spoonhour said. “They are a good defensive team and have good, strong, athletic guys who like to guard.”
The Panthers (12-19) started the game by making their first six shots in the game, including two 3-pointers, and made two free throws for an early 17-5 lead.
Austin Peay (18-13) cut EIU’s lead to 31-25 with 4:03 left in the first half, and the Panthers held the Governors to only 1 point for the rest of the half.
EIU went on a 9-2 run in the final 4 minutes to grab a 40-26 lead going into halftime.
“It was a tale of two halves. Give EIU all of the credit for how they played. I thought they came out loose and confident, and that was a credit to Jay’s team,” Figger said. “I thought we were really, really tight as a team. They handled us in the first half.”
EIU had a 44-30 lead in the second half when Glotta hit his first 3-pointer. It sparked a 12-0 run, and Glotta had three 3-pointers in that stretch. His fourth 3 tied the game at 46 with 13:12 left in the game.
EIU got a 3-pointer by Goodwin and a bucket by DeVantae’ Price to go up 51-46, but Glotta was fouled on a 3 and made all three free throws. Gumm hit a 3 from the corner to give Austin Peay its first lead at 52-51 with 10:19 left.
Muusa Dama hit a shot to put EIU up for the last time as Glotta came back with a 3 and it started a 10-0 run to put Austin Peay up 62-53 with 4:47 left.
EIU tried to come back late and cut it to 72-66 with 17 seconds left, but Austin Peay held on for the 7-point win.