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Sunday, November 17, 2019 8:35:25 AM

Totten Apex, N. In two seasons, he has amassed 1, rushing yards to rank 15th on NCCU's career rushing list, averaging 5.

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For Austin Peay, there has never been a bigger win than the one it earned 25 years ago this month. Against Illinois.

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Governors 68, Illini If only The big guy hadn't kept nailing three-pointers. Five times Darryl Bedford, all 6-foot-8, pounds of him, stepped beyond the arc and put a dagger in the Illinois defense. He stood outside the arc and fired up threes. That demoralized Illinois more than anything else.

Those were the days when big guys didn't shoot threes. Illinois didn't go out and guard him. The Illini had been a little less confident.

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Tony Raye wasn't such a deadeye at the line. He hit the winning free throws with two seconds left. That was the biggest shot of my life.

Ken Norman had made the last-second shot. Just like he had two months earlier to beat Wisconsin. Against Austin Peay, the footer bounced off the rim and Norman slumped to the floor.

He had a wide-open look at the elbow. He just missed the shot. Dick Vitale hadn't tempted Illinois' fate. Austin Peay was overall and an ugly in the Ohio Valley Conference.

Somehow, they turned their season around, winning six consecutive games. The only February loss came against Murray State, which hit a halfcourt shot at the buzzer. Otherwise, it was all Govs. And sucked eggs. Trailing by 22 points midway through the second half, a disgusted Kelly benched his starters.

And launched a comeback for the ages. Raye's steal and slam in the final minute moved Austin Peay into the semifinals. Against Middle Tennessee, the Governors needed to rally again. This time, they trailed by 10 with five minutes left.

Then, Bedford went nuts. He hit the tying and winning baskets, part of his career-high point game.

But the Colonels tied it in the final seconds. Unable to find an open teammate, Austin Peay point guard Richie Armstrong drilled a spinning foot three-pointer for the win.

A lot. As the No.

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Kelly, who passed away in March after complications from kidney stones, knew how to motivate his players. The night before the game, Kelly loaded up — what else? Must have been channeling his inner Norman Dale during his pregame instructions: "Sic 'em," Kelly said at the time.

Norman averaged Seniors Doug Altenberger and Tony Wysinger were double-figure scorers. So was sophomore Lowell Hamilton. And Glynn Blackwell averaged 9. Before Austin Peay, 12th-ranked Illinois was rolling. It had won nine of its last The two losses were close games against No.

Road trips hadn't been an issue for the veteran team, the Illini winning at Michigan and Michigan State by a combined 27 points in the final week of the regular season.

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The Governors knew they had advantages. A basket at the buzzer made it But Wysinger carried Illinois back. His jumper from the free throw line with 13 seconds left gave Illinois a lead. Instead, it raced the ball up the court, straight into trouble.

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Armstrong, the hero in the OVC tournament, made a big mistake. Dribbling along the baseline, he found himself trapped by four defenders: Wysinger, Altenberger and two out-of-bounds lines. That was a cardinal sin to drive into the corner. He whipped a pass to his teammate, who was fouled by Norman with two seconds left.

Norman had no choice. I wasn't a main scoring threat, so I think they were sagging off of me.

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Coach Kelly made plans for after I made the free throw. He had earlier hit 4 of 7 free throws. All six of his points came at the line. Norman missed the last shot and fell to the floor. Armstrong tried to help him up without success. Just a bunch of kids who needed a hug. They could tell by his tone that the game hadn't gone his favorite team's way.

Or anybody. The postgame greeting would have to wait two years for the Flyin' Illini. In a nice way.

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