Redemption For Austin Peay

Austin Peay forward Adrian Henning, center, takes a rebound away from Tennessee Tech's Antwyon Jones (44) and Damien Kinloch (33) in the first half of the championship game of the Ohio Valley Conference tournament Saturday, March 8, 2003
The pain of losing an NCAA tournament berth in 2001 on a goal-tending call may never ease for Austin Peay coach Dave Loos. His Governors hope earning a spot this season can ease his anguish.

Corey Gipson and Anthony Davis each scored 13 points to lead Austin Peay to a 63-57 victory over Tennessee Tech in the Ohio Valley Conference championship game Saturday, giving the Governors their fifth NCAA tournament berth and second under Loos.

At least this game didn't come down to a last-second call like the 2001 title game did when the Governors blew a 21-point lead and lost 84-83 when officials called Theanthony Haymon for goaltending on a jumper by Jan Thompson.

Loos knew that game would come up after the Governors earned their first NCAA trip since 1996.

"I have a knot in my stomach that will be there when they put me in the ground. There's nothing I can do about it. Just go on and try to learn from it, and fortunately I don't think any of these guys ... had to endure that," Loos said.

Center Josh Lewis and forward Adrian Henning quickly reminded Loos that they were on that team.

"We had to endure that a lot," Lewis said. "That wasn't cool at all."

Loos quickly apologized to the players for having gone through that finish.

"We made up for it. That's all that matters," Lewis said.

Austin Peay, predicted to finish fifth in the OVC, improved to 23-7 as the Governors added their third OVC tournament title to their share of the regular-season title. They did it with a defense that has held nine opponents to fewer than 60 points, and the Governors are undefeated in those games.

"Through the season, I've heard people say these guys are overachievers," Loos said. "That's not true on the defensive end. These guys are the best on the defensive end. They discussed early in the season that they could succeed that way. They've really taken great pride in that and made their defense a priority."

Gipson did the biggest job Saturday, holding Cameron Crisp to four points and getting him into foul trouble that limited him to 21 minutes.

"It adjusts your rotation," Tennessee Tech coach Mike Sutton said. "It's always a factor. (He's) one of the better guards in the league, and you want to keep him on the floor. He got limited minutes, and I think it hurts him in terms of getting a rhythm."

The loss snapped a six-game winning streak for Tennessee Tech (20-12) as the Golden Eagles lost in the championship game for a second straight year. Tennessee Tech last won the OVC tournament in 1967.

Crisp said losing in the title game last year by a point to Murray State was tough. This loss may be worse.

"We've had it in the back of our mind since that point to make it back here and win the championship and make it to the NCAA tournament. But it didn't come out that way," Crisp said.

The Governors won their sixth straight game and 14th of 15 at the free throw line. They went 19-of-27 there compared to Tennessee Tech's 8-of-12. The Golden Eagles outrebounded Austin Peay 37-32 but made only three field goals over the final five minutes.

Adrian Henning and Rhet Wierzba each had 12 points for Austin Peay.

Damien Kinloch led Tennessee Tech with 15 points and 13 rebounds, while Brent Jolly added 12 points.

This NCAA berth means more to Loos than in 1996 when he had Bubba Wells on his team.

"They came from nowhere because they're so close and because of the chemistry and the care for each other that they have that makes this so sweet," Loos said.