The ‘B’ is big at the ‘Peay’
If you happen to be in the gymnasium on the campus of Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tenn., and you hear somebody yelling, ‘B!’, it’s not because there’s an insect flying around trying to sting somebody. They’re yelling for former Corydon Central High School standout Meghan Bussabarger who just finished her sophomore season on the Lady Govs women’s basketball team.
Bussabarger has made a big splash for the Lady Govs in her first two years and has become a popular fixture among those on the Clarksville campus and on the court.
‘It’s my kind of game,’ Bussabarger said after her team beat up Ohio Valley Conference-rival Southeast Missouri, 71-51, in its final home game of the regular season on Feb. 26. ‘I love it. In high school, some teams go fast and some teams stay in their half-court offenses. I love the shot clock. You don’t have to play stall-ball. I hate that. Then, it’s just fast and you have to run the floor, and I love running the floor.’
There was a lot Bussabarger had to adjust to in her first season of Division 1 play, but she quickly showed a lot of promise playing in all 33 games while starting eight. She scored a season-high 13 points in 36 minutes of action against Eastern Kentucky, hit a game-winning jumper against Murray State and was considered one of the top finishers for the team in fast-break situations.
During her sophomore campaign, the 5-11 guard/forward started 25 of the team’s 33 games and averaged eight points and five rebounds, up from 4.6 and 2.2, respectively, in her freshman season.
Bussabarger said playing Division 1 basketball was much tougher, especially when having to maintain her grades at the same time.
‘It’s the intensity, the overall work,’ she said. ‘You have to work so much harder. The conditioning is a hundred times harder. The pre-season and post-season, year-round, it’s basketball. It’s a day-in, day-out commitment, and I love it.’
‘It was different getting used to the media time-outs, the 20-minute halves, the shot clock and everything, but I think I’ve transitioned well,’ she said. ‘I’m in good shape, so it’s good endurance, and it hasn’t really bothered me.’
Bussabarger isn’t the only area player at Austin Peay. Darcie Warner, a Springs Valley Junior-Senior High School product, just finished her senior season on the Lady Govs basketball team and Paoli’s Griffen Brown plays for the university’s golf team.
In their final home game, on Feb. 26, the Lady Govs struggled against Southeast Missouri in the first half. Bussabarger’s first points came at the 13:24 mark when she hit a jumper to put the Lady Govs up, 10-7. The Lady Govs later spread their lead to 18-9, but the Lady Redhawks rallied to close to 18-14 on a three-pointer by Britany Harriel.
Austin Peay, however, pulled away in the final minutes of the half to take a 39-26 lead at the break. Bussabarger had six points in the half.
‘I think we did a better job reading the people and knowing what the people would do, who was capable of doing what,’ Bussabarger said. ‘We just found people. We moved the ball well.’
Southeast Missouri stayed in the game till midway through the second half when Bussabarger nailed a jumper to launch a 7-0 burst for a 59-41 Lady Govs lead. From that point, it was all Austin Peay, who finished with a 71-51 win.
‘I wanted to do well for the seniors, and the team wanted to do well for the seniors,’ Bussabarger said. ‘Everything just clicked.’
Bussabarger came off the bench to lead the team, which finished the season 15-18, with 14 points and seven rebounds.
‘I was relaxed and at ease,’ she said. ‘I had my family, everybody was here except for my brother who was taking a test in Indy. It was just relaxing. I had my friends, Katie Hayes and little Marie (Rothrock). My brother and my boyfriend, John (Lopp), was here. It was good.’
Warner said seeing her college career coming to an end was bittersweet, but she added she would change nothing.
‘I couldn’t imagine not doing it and having the experiences,’ she said. ‘The family that I’ve had here, it’s just a great experience. I’ve had some things some people will never get to learn. I can’t say enough about my team. It’s an awesome experience.’
For Bussabarger, the time is flying by faster than she would like. The sophomore is majoring in education and one day hopes to coach.
‘Soon, I’ll be a senior and I’ll be crying and I won’t be ready to give it up because I don’t know what comes after basketball,’ she said. ‘Hopefully, I want to teach K through sixth (grade) and coach possibly. That would be nice. Track or basketball, I’m not sure.’