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Cheering children lift Skyhawks

Cheering children lift Skyhawks
More than 2,500 screaming students from area primary, elementary, middle and high schools helped cheer on the University of Tennessee at Martin men’s basketball team to a 121-56 victory over visiting Maryville University from St. Louis Friday morning in the Kathleen and Tom Elam Center.
“What a great start to a season,” said Bret Campbell, the Skyhawks head coach. “Character Counts was a special day and it will be long remembered.”
The Skyhawks showed up with a cast of characters that included sophomore Marquis Weddle — a Union City High School product — and senior Lester Hudson.
Hudson, one of 50 preseason nominees in the nation for the prestigious John Wooden Award, led all scorers with 27 points, eight steals, seven rebounds and seven assists.
Hudson only played 27 minutes in the game.
“I think Lester Hudson is embracing this year and the expectations he has on him,” Campbell said. “I think you are going to see an improved Lester Hudson, if that’s possible.”
Weddle, last year’s Ohio Valley Conference Freshman of the Year, tossed in 26 points and a half dozen 3-pointers.
Sophomore Benzor Simmons came off the bench to score 16 points.
True freshman MJ Brown, who led Union City to a 37-0 record and the Class A state championship last season, dropped in 12 points and Eric Massey added 10 points for UT Martin.
“It was good Skyhawk basketball today,” Campbell said. “I think this was a glimpse of what could happen this year. I don’t think it’s any secret that Lester Hudson and Marquis Weddle are premier players in the OVC and in the Southeast. I think you saw some other people step up who could help this basketball team. MJ Brown is going to be a factor very quickly for this team. Our depth will continue to show and help this basketball team win a lot of games this year.”
The Skyhawks enjoyed a 59-20 advantage at the half.
The lead at the break was triggered by a 21-2 run to open the game.
In the second half, the Skyhawks opened with a 12-2 spurt and enjoyed a 50-point lead with 16:50 to go.
Hudson and others played sparingly in the second half, and Maryville was able to score some from the perimeter.
Kyle Winters led the visiting Saints with 15 points.
“I thought we got a little lackadaisical with our perimeter defense and allowed a lot of penetration into the lane and allowed 36 points,” Campbell said. “I was not pleased with our defensive effort in the second half. We have to get better defensively. You can never be too good defensively. That’s our goal night in and night out.”
With the victory the Skyhawks are now 16-1 in home openers since joining Division I in 1992.
The team is 9-1 in home openers under Campbell, who started in 1999.
The Skyhawks return to action Tuesday when they play Tennessee in Knoxville.
That game will obviously be a bit tougher than this one as Tennessee is one of the nation’s top-rated programs.
The Volunteers are also one of the nation’s best at home. Coming into the UTM game, the Vols have wone 33 straight in Knoxville.
However, Campbell wasn’t looking forward after the victory as he praised his team of Skyhawks for what they did on and off the hardwood.
Off the court, Campbell was pleased with his team. “I thought our players did a great job this week before the game ever started going out in the community talking to students about character traits and what makes a good teammate.”

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