February 5, 2009 3:38 pm ET by Kyle Whelliston
Tennessee-Martin at Austin Peay (Ohio Valley)
Winfield Dunn Center - Clarksville, TN
9:00 PM EST
One of the greatest hidden coulda-shouldas of Championship Week 2008 occurred on the first Friday, when Tennessee-Martin and junior star Lester Hudson came just one point short of upsetting NCAA-bound Austin Peay in the league semis. There was a strong feeling in Nashville's Municipal Auditorium that day that we'd seen the last of Hudson; he went out with 31 points, then tested the NBA waters. But he came back for more, and we're all better for it. The 6-2 multiple-MMBOW is second in the nation behind Stephen Curry with 27.3 ppg, and he's helped lead the Skyhawks to six straight OVC wins to sit at 7-3 and third place in the league standings. We've said it before, but the reason why UTM has rebounded from a poor start is the steadily increased backcourt workload of Marquis Weddle (13.5 ppg), a 6-1 sophomore who keeps defenses honest. Every Batman needs a Robin, you know.
As for the league champs, they helped contribute to that hole the Skyhawks are working themselves out of. The Govs (12-9, 8-3) Martinized UTM's defense for 55 percent shooting in an 85-76 victory at Skyhawk Arena on Jan. 8, which just so happens to be Hudson & Co.'s last loss and only drop in the past 12 games. The Govs have carried over their hot shooting from last season, converting field goals at a rate of 48.4 percent and averaging 78.8 points in league play. Senior Drake Reed (19.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg), who'd likely be league POY if it wasn't for a certain Skyhawk, tag-teams with another familiar name from the 2008 run, 6-3 guard Wes Channels (17.7 ppg). They'll be plenty motivated to hold on to second place, but there are some serious shoulder-chips after a bad loss to Morehead State last weekend that ceded control of the conference to the Eagles.
The game will be shown live on ESPNU -- the "U" is for "Awesome." As an added bonus this evening, Peay legend Fly Williams' No. 35 will be added to the collection of giant round glowing number-discs on the Dunn Center's far wall -- a wall he helped erect. Williams is considered the greatest Gov ever, and offers one of the most intriguing stories of that era of small-college basketball right before the term "mid-major" was even coined. In the early 1970's, he was ABA style personified, packing APSU's tiny gym and wowing opposing fans on the road with superhero skills. Remembers one fan: "Once he didn't like the coaches strategy, so he walked off the court and sat in the stands with the fans. Other times he did things like dribble off the court during the game to stop at a water fountain." When the OVC declared him academically ineligible in 1974, Williams went on to play a year with the Spirits of St. Louis, and left the school in a quandary as how to handle his legacy. Finally, at the behest of head coach Dave Loos, he'll get his night. Even though it's 35 years too late for No. 35.
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