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UTM good vibes gone at Murray

UTM good vibes gone at Murray
Leave it to old nemesis and regional-rival Murray State to rain on UT Martin’s parade.
The Racers broke UTM’s six-game winning streak and tempered the excitement of the Skyhawks’ first-ever upcoming home game in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament with a 98-59 blowout Saturday night at the Regional Special Events Center.
The loss was UT Martin’s 15th straight to MSU in a series the Racers have dominated with 34 victories in 36 all-time meetings. The lopsided final margin was the greatest-ever between the two clubs.
The Skyhawks (16-15, 11-9) must regroup quickly, too, as they’ll host Samford (14-15, 10-10) in a matchup of the four and five seeds in a first-round OVC Tournament game Tuesday night at 7 at the Elam Center. UTM has never before played at home in the league’s postseason event and is 0-5 all-time in previous such games.
Opening round winners will advance to the semifinals and tourney championship rounds Friday and Saturday at Nashville’s Municipal Auditorium.
Any momentum the Skyhawks might have carried into the postseason is now gone after they were out-played convincingly in all phases of Saturday’s rout at the hands of Murray State.
The Racers (17-12, 13-7), who finished second in the conference standings to league winner Austin Peay, outshot UTM 56 percent to 34, won the rebound battle by a wide margin (47-23) and generally outclassed the Skyhawks in all areas.
A stunned Bret Campbell said he wouldn’t dwell on his club’s dismantling, however, with the quick turnaround before Tuesday’s matchup vs. Samford.
“We’re burying this one before we leave Murray tonight,” Campbell claimed. “We won’t let it on the bus. I’ve never lost a game like this and looked back on it and have it look like anything other than what it was.
“Tuesday night will be a first for UT Martin in getting to host an Ohio Valley Conference Tournament game. If we dwell on this one, it will affect us against Samford Tuesday.”
Defensively, Murray did a number of Skyhawk star Lester Hudson and his two main sidekicks, Marquis Weddle and Gerald Robinson.
Led by Hudson, who ranks among the nation’s leading scorers at 25.7 ppg, the UTM trio was averaging 57 points between them. Closely hounded by a host of Racer defenders — including Ray George who was especially effective against Hudson — the usually prolific UT Martin threesome managed to combine for just 32 points on dismal 12-of-43 shooting.
“Our Big 3 must be our Big 3,” Campbell added. “Tonight, they were a Little 3, and we’re not going to win when they’re our Little 3.
“I thought Murray did a great job of defending us. They were very physical and got us off-balance on several of our shots. And they forced us into some turnovers that led to several easy baskets for themselves.”
Hudson ended up with a team-high 18 points, but on 7-of-18 shooting, including 1-for-8 from 3-point range. Weddle jacked up 14 treys and made just three on his way to a 4-of-17 overall performance and 11 total points. Robinson hit but 1-of-8 attempts and finished with three points.
The Skyhawks trailed by as many as 15 points in the first half as Hudson was held scoreless for the first six minutes.
Still, UTM was within striking distance at 39-28 at the break.
An early burst by Hudson that included his only trifecta and a two-point bucket drew the Skyhawks within 46-39 with just over 16 minutes to play.
That hope was brief, however, as Murray’s Bruceton Carter than sank consecutive 3-pointers to ignite a 21-4 explosion that spelled the beginning of the end for UTM.
Carter led six Murray State players who scored in double figures with 22 points.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at mhutch@ucmessenger.com.

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