|Racers still have UTM’s number |
It’s both safe and accurate to say that Murray State has UT Martin’s number.
UT Martin’s Lester Hudson drives to the bucket during the Skyhawks’ 76-72 loss to Murray State Saturday evening.
It’s 14 and counting.
The Racers fought off a gritty challenge down the stretch to continue their men’s basketball mastery over the Skyhawks with a 76-72 victory Saturday night at the Elam Center.
In addition to its current 14-game winning streak vs. UTM, MSU has beaten the Skyhawks in 32 of 34 meetings in the all-time series — including seven straight now on UT Martin’s homecourt. UTM’s last win and head coach Bret Campbell’s only triumph in his nine-season tenure against the Racers came Feb. 3, 2002.
The frustration of his team’s shortcomings against its closest Ohio Valley Conference rival and the Skyhawks’ sixth loss by five points or less were topics of conversion afterward Saturday night.
“I don’t believe these kids of ours are affected by what we’ve done in the past against Murray; they just want to beat them,” Campbell said. “They’ve been among the elite programs in our conference for a long time, and they will always be somebody you like to measure yourself against and beat.
“I believe we can beat anybody in our conference. We’ve played the two best teams in the OVC the last two times out in Austin Peay and Murray, and we’ve played them down to the wire. We just need to win some of these games that we’ve been coming up short in.”
The Skyhawks (8-12, 4-6), who trailed just 35-29 at halftime despite shooting just 36 percent from the field, found themselves in a 12-point hole (68-56) with just over five minutes to play and were still behind 71-60 with 3:10 showing.
Former Union City High School prep standout Marquis Weddle — who suffered through a woeful 2-for-11 shooting night — nonetheless made his only two field goals of the contest, both 3-pointers, to fuel a flurry of 10 unanswered points that got UTM within 71-70 with a half-minute still remaining.
Murray’s Tyler Holloway was fouled and made two pressure-packed free throws to widen the lead to three, but the Skyhawks’ Gerald Robinson converted a stickback after Weddle’s trey was off to again slice the difference to one point (73-72) with 20 seconds showing.
The Racers’ Bruce Carter — like Holloway — was clutch from the charity stripe five ticks later with two more charities to make it 75-72, but UT Martin had a chance to tie on its final possession. Lester Hudson’s 28-footer, however, never drew iron and a foul shot by Danero Thomas with one second left sealed the MSU victory.
“It’s really frustrating because we got ourselves down early and had to fight so hard and claw back, and we did so but came up short,” Campbell continued. “I think we’ve got to look at some of those early possessions and missed free throws and understand that every possession is important in this league.”
UTM’s Hudson, among the nation’s leading scorers and expected to head that list when the new NCAA statistics are released next week, scored 21 of the Skyhawks’ first 25 points in the second half and 13 straight at one point to help the Skyhawks briefly overtake Murray and go up 47-43 at the 13:27 mark.
Hudson made 7-of-8 field goals overall, including 5-of-6 from beyond the arc, and sank his only two free throws during the first 12 minutes of the second half.
The Racers (10-7, 6-3) — winners of five straight now — never panicked, though, and accounted for the last of eight lead changes when ex-Liberty prep standout Jewuan Long scored with just under 10 minutes left to break a 49-all deadlock.
Hudson finished with 32 points to lead all point-makers. He also snagged six rebounds, snatched six steals and dished out four assists. Robinson recorded a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Danero Thomas led the Racers with 19 points, while both Carter and Ray George chipped in with 13 apiece.
UTM’s next game is Thursday night at Samford.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.