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OVC cards fall into place after Skyhawks shuffle

OVC cards fall into place after Skyhawks shuffle
OVC cards fall into place after Skyhawks shuffle
UT Martin head coach Jason James shook up his starting lineup for Tuesday’s 73-70 victory over Southeast Missouri at home.
The rookie skipper went against conventional wisdom, taking Union City product and leading scorer Marquis Weddle and top rebounder Benzor Simmons out of his first five for a stand-alone game against Southeast Missouri State University.
The result — final score and the output from the aforementioned duo — satisfied James.
“I wanted to shake the lineup a little bit and give a little different defensive look,” James said after the victory. “Marquis and Benzor weren’t meeting the expectations I had for them on the defensive end, so we made a change.
“Marquis came in off the bench and battled (on defense) and scored like we know he can. If we can get those two to play like this the rest of the season, we’ll have a chance to get a few more wins.”
As it stands, Monday’s win was UTM’s first in Ohio Valley Conference play (1-12) this season and just the team’s fourth overall (4-19).
The triumph also broke the Skyhawks’ three-game losing streak.
“It’s a relief,” James said of gaining his first career OVC victory. “We’ve been so close and it’s good to show that we can win. Now, we just need to do it more consistently.”
UT Martin trailed by as many as 17 points – down 26-9 nearly 10 minutes into the game — in the first half as it looked like James’ experiment might have gone awry.
However, the host team fought back as Weddle accounted for the final seven points of the first half to get the Skyhawks within a 7-point margin, 38-31, at intermission.
His final score of the half — a 3-pointer with six seconds remaining — gave UTM a boatload of momentum to take to the locker room.
In the second half, the Skyhawks scratched their way to within three and finally broke through with an 11-0 run that turned the modest deficit into an eight-point advantage.
During the spurt, Weddle had a 3 and a jumper, while Andres Irarrazabal added a basket and pair of free throws.
The rest of the way, SEMO (7-17, 3-10 in OVC action) only held the lead once more.
Irarrazabal dropped in a layup with 2:42 remaining to put UTM up for good.
Weddle, who passed Jeremy Kelly to become the school’s sixth all-time leading scorer on Tuesday, totaled a team-best 15 points from the bench, while Irarrazabal added 14 and Reuben Clayton gave UTM three players in twin figures with 12.
Weddle has a total of 1,224 points. Next up on UT Martin’s all-time list is Mike Meschede (1,729).
UC product MJ Brown was a bucket short of twin figures with eight points.
However, Brown could be most lauded for his ball-handling skills as the two-time Class A Mr. Basketball dished out four assists and made zero turnovers in his 23 minutes of play.
Sports reporter Kenneth Coker can be contacted by e-mail at kcoker@ucmessenger.com.

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