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Newcomers help UTM men past Eastern Illinois

Newcomers help UTM men past Eastern Illinois
Newcomers help UTM men past Eastern Illinois
MARTIN, Tenn. — Lester Hudson scored 24 points and got some help from two newcomers as UT Martin (13-14/9-8 OVC) defeated visiting Eastern Illinois (4-20/3-13 OVC) 73-62 Saturday night in the Kathleen and Tom Elam Center.
“I like the direction our team is going,” Skyhawk head coach Bret Campbell said. “I like how we are playing now. But our goal is still to be focused for 40 minutes.”
Djero Riedewald, a junior college transfer, scored 14 points and had 13 rebounds, while true freshman Benzor Simmons tossed in 14 points. The trio of Hudson, Riedewald and Simmons combined for 52 of the Skyhawks’ 73 points.
“Djero’s double-double was extremely big for this basketball team,” Campbell said. “We are trying to get some consistency in the post. He (Riedewald) was very active and was a big boost to our team.”
Simmons, who made his fourth career start, continues to be impressive on the court. “Benzor (Simmons) continues to make strides every night to make this team better. He is becoming more comfortable on the floor and he is certainly a positive for us right now,” Campbell said.
After eight minutes of swapping baskets, Eastern Illinois grabbed a 12-9 advantage with a Bobby Catchings jumper. Hudson triggered an 11-0 run with a layup at the 12:30 mark and the Skyhawks never looked back.
“Eastern Illinois is a very well-coached team,” Campbell said. “They battle extremely hard and they are pretty resilient. They are a team that will fight you to the bitter end. That’s a testimony to their coach and the job he has done.”
At the break, UT Martin led 39-26. Hudson closed out the first 20 minutes of play with three 3-pointers in the last 1:55 of the half.
Riedewald scored seven points and had eight rebounds in the first half.
In the second half, the host Skyhawks stretched their lead to 19 points, 53-34, with 14:57 to play as Hudson drained a 3-pointer. EIU never gave up and cut the Skyhawks’ lead to 10 points, 60-50, with 5:06 remaining. However, that was as close as it the Panthers would get to UT Martin which has now won back-to-back conference games at home.
Jake Byrne led EIU with 13 points and seven rebounds, while Catchings finished the game with 11 points. Julio Anthony also scored 11 points for EIU.
The Skyhawks return to action Thursday, when they travel to Cookeville to face host Tennessee Tech. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
“We have three games remaining and we have to focus on them one at a time,” Campbell said. “Tennessee Tech Thursday at their place will be very tough.”

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