|UTM left in cellar by leader Murray |
|Posted: Monday, February 1, 2010 4:28 pm |
Both the best and worst of the Ohio Valley Conference men’s basketball teams were on display Saturday afternoon at the Elam Center.
UT Martin’s Cataurius Taylor goes up for a shot during the Skyhawks’ defeat on Saturday.
It wasn’t hard to distinguish which was which.
League-leading Murray State won its 18th straight OVC game and 20th overall this season with a convincing 77-45 pounding of cellar-dwelling UT Martin before a sparse crowd and an ESPNU national television audience.
The Racers (20-3, 11-0), one of just three teams in the nation to lead their respective conference in both offense and defense, dominated the cold-shooting Skyhawks (3-17, 0-10) from the opening tip and continued their mastery of the regional rivalry with their 36th victory in 39 all-time meetings in the series.
Murray, which achieved the benchmark 20-victory mark for the 23rd time in the storied history of its program, shot a blistering 56.6 percent from the field. The Racers impressively ruled play both on the perimeter (eight 3-pointers) and in the paint with 34 points and 12 blocked shots as their deep and talented roster featured 10 players who logged double-digit minute totals with little dropoff.
Ivan Aska and Isaiah Canaan scored 13 points apiece to lead a balanced attack for the visitors, with Danero Thomas pitching in 11 to make for a trio of players in double figures with two more (B.J. Jenkins and Tony Easley) just a bucket away from that status. Easley was a terror in the paint for MSU with seven blocked shots and seven rebounds in just 17 minutes of playing time.
UTM, meanwhile, mis-sed its first 10 field goal attempts and trailed by 20 points (25-5) when Marquis Weddle finally broke the ice with a 3-pointer with more than nine minutes of the first half having elapsed. The outmanned Skyhawks didn’t make consecutive shots until Andres Irarrazabal and Cataurius Taylor converted back-to-back layups, the second 3:46 before intermission.
All totaled, UT Martin made just 24.6 percent of its shots (15-of-61) and posted its lowest point total of the season.
“They (Murray) had some to do with that, but a lot of it was us — forcing shots and not making the extra pass,” a disappointed first-year UTM head coach Jason James said afterward. “Defensively, they got into a good rhythm early, but I just certainly was hoping we would come in and compete better.
“I just don’t think we were ready to play, and there’s no excuse for that.”
The contest marked the return to the Elam Center of former UTM head coach and now MSU assistant Bret Campbell.
Campbell was essentially forced out last spring after leading the Skyhawks to the school’s first-ever OVC title and being named Coach of the Year when an audit revealed he did not follow proper university procedures for dealing with team camp funds.
No charges were ever filed and there were no NCAA sanctions given the program for Campbell’s wrongdoing, which he admitted in the aftermath.
The game itself was all Murray State.
The Racers scored the game’s first seven points and led 31-8 with just under eight minutes still showing in the first half after UTM misfired on 15 of its first 16 shot attempts.
Murray was hitting on 13-of-23 (56 percent) during that time.
It was 46-23 at the half.
The break did nothing to help the Skyhawks’ shooting as they missed 19 of their first 22 shots after the intermission and trailed by as many as 34 points.
Weddle, who made just 2-of-13 field goal tries, had a team-best nine points as no UT Martin players scored in double figures. UTM’s other ex-Union City High School standout, MJ Brown, had four points on 1-of-7 shooting.
Freshman Terrance Coleman had eight points and a game-best 11 rebounds for Martin.
The Skyhawks were without the services of No. 3 scorer Reuben Clayton (13.6 ppg), who was suspended for a game due to a violation of team policy.
UTM hosts on Tennessee Tech Thursday night.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.